Resisting God’s Mission

Posted: July 20, 2017 in Jonah, Uncategorized

Jonah 1-2, “Resisting God’s Mission”

It is one of the most famous fish stories in all history – which makes it both a good & a bad thing.  The account of Jonah is simultaneously grace-filled and convicting, and gives one of the best pictures of Jesus’ resurrection that is found in the Old Testament.  At the same time, it’s still a “fish story,” which makes many people question it from the start.  Fishermen are often doubted regarding the size of their catches, and Jonah is no exception.  In fact, his is the grand-daddy of all fish-stories, being a stumbling block for untold numbers of skeptics.

Although Jonah is often imagined with a whale, the Bible never says what sort of sea creature swallowed him.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter.  What does matter is that it really happened, and that it was such a historical event that the Lord Jesus specifically pointed to it as the sign prefiguring His own resurrection.

Actually, to make Jonah’s story solely about the fish is to miss the main point.  Certainly, it’s the main miracle, but the primary issue is the problem with the prophet.  Jonah was a bona-fide prophet called by the Lord, who not only resisted the mission God had for him, but also the grace that God poured out to others.  This was a prophet who wanted to horde away the grace of God, keeping it only for himself, and not for others.  Jonah is quite the change from Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and others!  Other prophets of God were selfless; Jonah was selfish.  But even in his selfishness, God demonstrated grace and mercy, even taking the time to continually teach the prophet that should have known better – helping him mature into the man that God had intended all along.

In fact, there’s evidence that he did!  Although the book of Jonah shows the prophet only in his selfish immaturity, the fact that we have a book at all indicates that Jonah eventually grew up.  Only a person truly humbled by the Lord would author a book that puts himself in such a poor light.  Jonah held nothing back in the description of his formerly pitiful self…which is great credit to his favor.  No doubt, we will see Jonah in heaven alongside the other prophets, humbly worshipping the God he once ran from.

The book splits easily in half, with mirror sections in Chapters 1 & 3.  In each, Jonah receives his call, but only in Chapter 3 does he obey that call.  In Chapter 1, he runs from it…and God runs right after him.  Jonah cannot escape the presence of the Lord, and once he finally submits himself to God’s hand, he learns that he is just as reliant upon the grace of God as everyone else.  The Ninevites weren’t the only ones in need of God’s salvation; Jonah needed it, too.  So do we.

Jonah 1

  • Jonah’s call & rebellion (1:1-3)

1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.”

  • Who was Jonah?  Unlike men like Obadiah and Joel, the Bible actually gives us quite a bit of information about Jonah.  Verse 1 tells us only that he was “the son of Amittai,” but that helps us match him with another reference in the book of the Kings.  2 Kings 14:23–25, "(23) In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, became king in Samaria, and reigned forty-one years. (24) And he did evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin. (25) He restored the territory of Israel from the entrance of Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord God of Israel, which He had spoken through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet who was from Gath Hepher."  From this, we know that Jonah served as a prophet in the northern kingdom of Israel (Samaria), during the reign of Jeroboam II, another one in a long line of evil kings.  Although God did not allow Israel to be destroyed at that particular time (even going so far as to allow Jeroboam II to increase Israel’s territory, they were not very far away at all from their punishment.  The book of Amos was actually written around this same timeframe to document the many sins of Israel, showing them how their judgment from God was deserved.  Thus, Jonah and Amos were basically contemporaries as prophets, even though their messages and callings from the Lord were drastically different. 
  • God’s command to him: go preach to Nineveh.  That may not sound like much, until we understand the historical context.  Nineveh was one of the chief cities of the Assyrian empire, serving as its capital at various points.  Jonah lived roughly 70+ years prior to fall to Assyria, while the Assyrian empire was on the rise.  The Assyrians obtained quite the reputation for violently subjugating the nations they conquered, and Israel knew that they were on the radar.  Considering that God consistently sent prophets to Israel to tell them of their eventual fall to Assyria (including the book of Amos), Jonah & the rest of Israel didn’t need to look at the geopolitics at the time to know they were in danger; they just needed to know & believe God’s word.  Apparently Jonah did believe it, considering how he acted in response to God’s calling.  God had told him to go to the chief city of his nation’s chief enemy, and tell them of God’s judgment.    Jonah knew that this might entail God’s mercy (4:2), and this left him unwilling to go.  If anyone was to be judged for their “wickedness,” it needed to be Nineveh!
    • Jonah struggled with prejudice, which becomes apparent in the rest of the book as well.  There were certain people he simply did not want saved.  Are there any people like that for us?  Do we pray for our physical enemies such as Islamic terrorists?  Do we pray for our political foes like abortionists?  Who is it that you believe deserves the judgment of God?  Guess what?  We do, too.  We did nothing to earn God’s grace.  We ought to be willing to take the message of His grace even to those people we despise.  Who knows?  Perhaps some of those enemies might become our brothers & sisters in the faith!
  • Jonah wasn’t willing to find out…

3 But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.

  • Jonah’s response to God’s call?  Disobedience.  He literally ran the other way.  Nineveh was 550 miles inland; Tarshish was the furthest place westward across the sea that he could imagine.  So Jonah “arose,” all right, but he didn’t arise according to the Lord’s command.  He rebelled, resisting the mission to which God called him.  God’s own prophet attempted to flee “from the presence of the LORD.
  • Question: is it possible to flee from the presence of the Lord?  Not at all.  Psalm 139:7–10, "(7) Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? (8) If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. (9) If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, (10) Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me."  How can someone escape omnipresence?  It’s impossible!  Even if Jonah believed he was leaving the nation in which God allowed His presence to specially reside, there was no way that he could truly flee from the God of heaven and earth.  There is no place where God is not.
    • We might try to run from God, but we cannot hide from Him.  Perhaps we think our actions are hidden from His sight.  Perhaps we believe our thoughts are unknown to Him.  If so, we’re wrong.  God knows all things, and He is present in all places.  Sobering?  Yes – but comforting, too!  After all, God is with us in our depression.  He is with us in our suffering – in our trials.  God is even available to us in our sin, though He might seem far away.  Yet all we need do is repent – turn around – and we’ll find Him right there.  Praise God that we cannot outrun the presence of the Lord!  If we could, we might not ever find Him again.  It is in His grace that He makes Himself ever-available to us.
  • The voyage at sea (1:4-16)

4 But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up.

  • Notice whence the wind (the “great wind”!) came: the LORD.  The Almighty I-AM “sent” the wind – the text literally saying that He “hurled” the wind upon the sea.  This was no normal weather pattern on the Mediterranean; this was a supernatural storm front!
  • How bad was it?  The ship was “about to be broken up.”  Technically, the Hebrew treats the ship almost as another character at this point, as the ESV & NIV point out.  Literally, it “threatened” to break apart, or it “thought about” being destroyed.  The bottom line is that it’s a picturesque way of saying that things were bad!  From a sailor’s perspective, this was as bad as it could get at sea.  These men were used to sailing through storms (that was just part of the job), but this was something that could easily mean their deaths as the ship groaned, and the boards threatened to break apart at the joints.

5 Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep.

  • The sailors acted, post-haste!  They did whatever they could, and whatever they thought would help.  They prayed to their various gods – they tossed supplies and cargos overboard.  It was all-hands-on-deck, everyone doing their part to try to save the lives of everyone else on board.  At least, that’s the way it was for the sailors; Jonah was a different story.
  • Jonah slept, not having a care in the world.  Perhaps he thought it would be better to die than to do to Nineveh.  He had no thought at all regarding the sailors, or anyone except himself. He slept through the whole storm, never bothering to wake and help anyone else.
  • There’s an interesting parallel between Jonah & Jesus in these events.  Both men were on a ship caught in a storm.  Both men were asleep, despite the panic of others.  Yet one man is in sin & the other isn’t.  Why?  Because while Jesus was in the will of God, Jonah was not.  Jesus’ sleep was not the sleep of someone selfishly indifferent to the safety of others; Jesus had full confidence that the boat would not sink.  His trust was in the Lord.  At this point in Jonah’s life, it’s doubtful he could say the same thing.  Jonah’s sleep was one of shutting himself off from the world; Jesus’ sleep was one that was made possible by the peace of God.
    • What kind of sleep do you experience?  (Not to push the analogy too far…)  Where is your faith?  Do you trust the Lord, or yourself?  Self-trust leads to self-deception, which in turn leads to danger.  True trust in the Lord God leads to real peace – the peace that passes understanding. (Phil 4:7)

6 So the captain came to him, and said to him, “What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.”

  • So apathetic was Jonah to the situation on board that it took the captain to personally go down and rouse him from his sleep.  It took a pagan’s insults to finally wake up God’s prophet to the need for prayer.  (Not exactly helpful to Jonah’s witness among the Gentiles!)

7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.

  • Superstitious?  Yes – but it was their way of allowing God to guide them.  Instead of blindly choosing someone to blame, they let “fate” (more accurately, the Lord) decide.  One can hardly blame them.  Nothing they did was helping, and the only hope that remained was that of a miracle.  It was dawning upon them that this storm was supernaturally caused, and they required supernatural intervention.  All that was left was to determine which god upon whom to call.  Thus, they cast lots, and all signs pointed to Jonah.

8 Then they said to him, “Please tell us! For whose cause is this trouble upon us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” 9 So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

  • True, to a point.  Jonah feared the Lord, but he didn’t obey the Lord.  Technically, he was a worshipper of the one true God.  In practice, he acted just like the Gentiles around him.  Jonah had the name & ethnicity of a Hebrew, but not the lifestyle of one.
    • Our actions matter.  Thankfully, our salvation is not based upon our obedience – we are saved by grace through faith, not of works.  (If it were otherwise, we’d have no hope!)  But that doesn’t mean that our works are worthless & meaningless.  It doesn’t mean that God does not desire our good works.  As a matter of fact, that is one of the reasons He specifically saved us by His grace!  Ephesians 2:8–10, "(8) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, lest anyone should boast. (10) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."  We’re not saved of works, but we are saved for works, being that we ourselves are the handiwork of God.  This is what Jonah missed.  May we learn from his mistake!  We have the name of “Christian” – may we act like Christians!
  • Notice Jonah’s description of God: He is “the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” (1) Jonah gives the sailors the covenantal name of his God, YHWH / I-AM, distinguishing this God from every other god worshipped at the time.  (2)  This God is the God who made all that they saw, including the heavens from which the storm came, the sea upon which they rocked, and the dry land from where they originated.  Unlike Baal who supposedly made one of those things (the land), YHWH God made it all.  For the sailors, this would have been proof-positive that this God was the God behind the life-threatening storm.

10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, “Why have you done this?” For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.

  • Jonah claimed to fear the Lord, but the sailors had a far more severe reaction.  They were “exceedingly afraid.”  Literally, they “feared a great fear.”  Jonah had a technicality of worship; the sailors had a true fear of the Omnipotent God!  If God could send this storm to them, what else was He capable of doing?  Anything & everything.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10) – these Phoenician sailors were learning this lesson first-hand.
  • By now, Jonah had filled them in on the rest of the details.  Not only was he a Hebrew, but he was a prophet on the run from his God.  He had endangered all of them through his disobedience.
    • Question: how do you think Jonah’s witness was affected by this point?  Again, actions matter.  What we do in front of others tells them much of what we believe about our God.  If we want to be faithful witnesses of the Son of God who died for our sins and rose from the grave, then we need to live as people who have actually been transformed by His grace.  Why would others believe in a Resurrected Living Savior, if they cannot see His life within us?

11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?”—for the sea was growing more tempestuous. 12 And he said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.”

  • God’s hand was evident, so the sailors asked God’s prophet what to do.  They didn’t know the ways of God, so they asked the only person who did…even if his witness was completely shot by this point.
  • Jonah’s answer might seem heroic, but it’s still incredibly selfish.  If Jonah knew he was the cause, and if he knew his removal from the ship would be the cure – why didn’t he jump?!  So complacent was he towards Gentiles that he would rather force them to do the work that he should have done himself.
    • Beware complacency…it kills.

13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them. 14 Therefore they cried out to the LORD and said, “We pray, O LORD, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O LORD, have done as it pleased You.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.

  • The men knew what to do, but they still resisted.  Were they being just as disobedient as Jonah?  No.  They were basically told to send one of God’s prophets to his death.  If the Creator God who made the sea was already doing this to the ship with Jonah on board, imagine what He might do if the sailors brought harm to the prophet!  It’s no wonder they tried everything they could to avoid throwing Jonah overboard.  However, their efforts were futile.  God was forcing their hand.
    • God gives us freewill, but that doesn’t mean He is hands-off. He will move whatever circumstances are necessary to get our attention.
  • The prayer of the sailors is notable.  It’s understandable in the fact that they don’t want to be charged with sin – after all, they’re only doing what God’s prophet told them to do.  They didn’t want harm to come to Jonah, but they were left without a choice regarding their actions.  But notice the trust that is beginning to develop between them and God.  (1) They use the covenant name of God, just as Jonah had previously shared with them.  Typically, that is a name that only a Hebrew would use, but these pagan sailors understand that this was how God had chosen to reveal Himself.  (2) They assert God’s sovereignty in the situation.  They know that God was doing as He pleased, showing that they understood that God was in control.
  • The men prayed, and then they acted.  Unlike Jonah who professed faith and did nothing, these Gentile sailors followed through on what they said they believed.  The result?  Instantaneous calm!  It was a supernatural storm followed by a supernatural peace.  If Jonah’s witness of the Lord was half-hearted, God’s own self-witness was loudly proclaimed!
    • God wants people to know Him!  He’s not trying to hide Himself from anyone who seeks Him in sincerity and truth.  If someone really wants to know God, then there will be a way they will see Jesus.

16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the LORD and took vows.

  • There was calm on the waters, but not within the men’s hearts.  They continued to fear a great fear, evidently putting their own personal faith and trust in the Lord God.  They feared God as Jonah was meant to fear God, and they responded to the Lord in righteous worship.  That the sailors converted, is an idea that many scholars reject.  They (correctly) point out that the Phoenician sailors were polytheists, and would have no problem simply adding the God of Jonah to the many gods they already worshipped.  They could offer a sacrifice to the Lord, and go back to their own ways.  All that is undeniably true – but based upon what?  Those same scholars claim that the Bible never says they converted, but what else could the Bible possibly say to indicate that they did?  (1) They feared the Lord, (2) they used His covenant name, (3) they offered sacrifices, and (4) they took vows unto His name.  In that ancient culture, while upon that boat, that’s all any Gentile could have done to express his/her faith in the God of Israel.  With all due respect to the scholars who believe otherwise, it seems more likely that the Bible is expressly saying that these men came to faith in the Living God.
  • Incredibly, Jonah’s disobedience was the tool God used to bring a bunch of pagan sailors to faith.  It doesn’t justify Jonah’s rebellion in the slightest, but it’s a wonderful picture of how God can use all things for His glory.
  • The voyage under the sea (1:17 – 2:10)

17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

  • This is the act for which the book of Jonah is known – and it is to this that Jesus points as the sign of His own heavenly ministry.  Jonah was swallowed by this “great fish,” and he was in the fish’s belly “three days and three nights,” exactly as Jesus said that He Himself would be in the heart of the earth. (Mt 12:39-40)  Keep in mind that “three days and three nights” does not necessarily mean a literal 72-hour period; it is an idiom referring to the amount of time that someone would be considered truly dead.  Parts of days & nights could be included within the whole, as was the case for Jesus.  But all in all, the point was just as Jonah was swallowed by figurative death, so was Jesus swallowed by literal death.  And just as Jonah came up again, so did the Lord Jesus.  This is the sign of Jesus’ ministry: the resurrection.  It was Jonah’s disobedience that led him to this point, but it was Jesus’ obedience that led to His own.
  • God “prepared/ordained” a fish for the moment.  What kind of sea creature it was, we do not know.  The Hebrew word used for “fish” could refer to any number of creatures, from fish to eels to sharks to whales.  There is indeed a variety of sperm whale known to inhabit the Mediterranean Sea, which would be more than capable of swallowing a man whole. That said, it doesn’t have to be a whale.  The breed of animal isn’t the point; it’s the fact that God ordained this animal.  God specifically prepared an animal to be used at this time for this purpose.  Whether this animal materialized in the waters at that very moment by the will of God, or whether God had allowed this animal to grow over the course of years and arrive at this specific spot for this specific time – that’s unknown.  What is known is that God willed for this creature to be there, and it was.  God knew what the need would be, and He met it.  Think about that for a moment.  This means that God knew (1) Jonah’s rebellion, (2) the sailor’s predicament, and (3) the sailor’s eventual obedience to hurl Jonah into the waters.  God knew every single aspect of what would take place, and He prepared what was needed accordingly.
    • God is sovereign!  He is sovereign over time, and sovereign over matter.  There is nothing He does not know, and nothing He cannot do.  God knows when we will choose to obey, and when we will choose to run…and in the midst of it all, He still works His will.  God’s will can never be thwarted, even in our screw-ups.  Praise the Lord!  Certainly God desires our obedience, but not even our disobedience can stop God’s will from being done.  We might suffer in the meantime, but God will not.
    • From that perspective, it makes our disobedience rather pointless, doesn’t it?  We are not robots, and God will not mechanically force us to act a certain way.  But God’s way is still going to be done, no matter what.  So why not submit to Him in the first place?  Disobedience only makes our own lives difficult.

Jonah 2
1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish’s belly.

  • Notice no one had to tell Jonah to pray this time.   It’s amazing what a little change in circumstances can do! 
  • Jonah prayed to “his God.”  Jonah may have been disobedient, but he hadn’t completely given up his faith.  He still knew the Lord, even if he hadn’t obeyed God perfectly.  Thankfully, God still made Himself available to Jonah.
  • Jonah prayed “from the fish’s belly.”  Prayer can take place anywhere at any time.  Prayer doesn’t require perfect words; just a sincere faith in the real God.

2 And he said: “I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction, And He answered me. “Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, And You heard my voice.

  • Notice the English past tense.  Jonah was still in the fish, and had every confidence that God already heard him.  This sort of faith is reflected throughout Jonah’s psalm.  He’s able to speak about the things God would be doing as if God had already done them.  That’s the sort of faith that God desires from us.  Not that we can somehow “force” God into action; we simply have trusting faith in His character, knowing that God will do what is right according to His word.
  • God heard him from the point of death.  “Sheol” = the grave.  Jonah was not literally dead, but it surely seemed like it.  Imagine it from his point of view: cast overboard, Jonah likely flailed in the sea, sinking into the depth. (Hebrews were not known for their seafaring ability or swimming prowess.)  At some point, the great fish creature swallowed him, and he was likely in & out of consciousness through his journey.  He would have woken up in complete blackness, and it may have taken some time for him to realize that he was still physically alive, and even longer before he figured out where he was.  No doubt, it felt like Sheol to him!  And even from there, God heard him.
    • God hears His children.  Anywhere, and everywhere, He hears us.  That’s part of the grace we have received through Christ!

3 For You cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the floods surrounded me; All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.

  • Jonah confessed that he recognized the work of God in his discipline.  The sailors may have hurled him overboard, but it was God who “cast [him] into the deep.”  The “billows and…waves” belonged to the Lord Almighty.  This was God’s hand of discipline, and Jonah saw it for what it was, in essence, confessing his need to receive it – that God’s actions were righteous.
    • Confession is healthy!  To agree with God about our sin – about His goodness – about His justice – these are good things.  This is what starts the cleansing process in our own hearts, as we confess these things to Jesus, and He works within our lives through His forgiveness. (1 Jn 1:9)

4 Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your sight; Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’

  • Not only did Jonah have faith that God heard him – he also had faith that God would truly deliver him.  Notice the English future tense: “Yet I will look again.”  One day, Jonah would see Jerusalem again with his own eyes.  Of that, he was sure.  That required seeing daylight again, and thus Jonah had faith in his physical deliverance.

5 The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; The deep closed around me; Weeds were wrapped around my head. 6 I went down to the moorings of the mountains; The earth with its bars closed behind me forever; Yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD, my God.

  • For those who doubt the historicity of Jonah, Jonah describes his physical sufferings.  These are not the words of a man who was hallucinating, nor the words of a man using a string of metaphors.  These are consistent (though poetic) descriptions of what it would be like to be taken to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Question: Is this physically possible?  Wouldn’t Jonah have run out of oxygen before three days and nights were up?  How could he survive the change of atmospheric pressure, even while in the fish’s belly?  No doubt, a scenario like this presents an incredibly low possibility of survival.  But all of those questions discount the miraculous power of God.  God had prepared a fish for this very moment, and God is capable of superintending every detail along the way.  To say that this was a miracle is a not a cop-out; it’s a statement of fact!
  • In fact, the description of a God-given miracle is absolutely essential to the whole event, and to what it points.  After all, this is a picture of the resurrection – even according to Jonah’s own words. (“You have brought up my life from the pit…”) If the resurrection isn’t a miracle, nothing is!
    • Our faith is absolutely dependent upon a miracle of God. But it is a miracle that is historically verifiable & accurate.  It takes faith to believe the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection, but His resurrection is also a historic fact.

7 “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; And my prayer went up to You, Into Your holy temple.

  • This seems to be Jonah’s point of repentance.  At his worst time, he remembered his covenant-keeping God, and Jonah sought him in faith.
  • There comes a point in our lives when we come to our senses, and seek the Lord.  This was Jonah’s.  What was yours?

8 “Those who regard worthless idols Forsake their own Mercy. 9 But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.”

  • Jonah’s prayer was to the Lord God, because only the Lord God is God.  Other gods are not gods at all.  They are “worthless idols” – or as it can be alternately translated, “empty vapors.”  They are nothingness.
  • What’s the point in worshipping nothing?  What good does it serve to serve empty, useless, imagined idols?  Only the real God offers real grace.  Only He offers true mercy & loyal lovingkindess.
  • With Jonah again turning to the Lord, he not only offers God his prayers, but also his thanksgiving and future sacrifice.  He has complete faith that he will be raised from this point of near-death.
  • The conclusion? “Salvation is of the LORD.”  Amen!  Every Christian can say this with even more excitement, as the Hebrew word for “salvation” is the Name above all names: Yeshua (יְשׁוּעָה ).  Our salvation – our Jesus – is of/from the Lord.  In Jesus, we have deliverance from death – in Yeshua, we have salvation from sin – in Christ we have all the promises of living forever with our Heavenly Father.  Salvation is of the Lord!

10 So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

  • Chapter 2 concludes with no small irony: the fish obeys God better than Jonah did.
  • It may have been gross, but it was effective.  Jonah’s life was indeed saved, and he would have the opportunity to pay his vows.  More important than that, however, was the opportunity Jonah would be given to follow through on his original mission.  For the time being, his attitude was changed (though it wouldn’t last) – but he was equipped in a way he would have never before experienced.  He personally experienced the judgment and deliverance of the Lord God.  Now he would be able to preach that news with personal conviction.
    • Far better to obey the Lord than to receive His discipline!  Even so, God can still use His discipline in our lives to make us effective witnesses for the gospel.

Conclusion:
As the book began, Jonah’s attitude stank worse than the fish into which he was placed.  Despite clearly knowing the Lord God – despite receiving a clear calling and command from the Lord God – Jonah ran the opposite direction.  He couldn’t bear the idea of a group that he hated receiving God’s mercies, and he was going to do his best to resist taking that news to them – even if it meant endangering the lives of others around him.  It’s not a flattering picture of a prophet!  He was rebellious, selfish, and apathetic to God & everyone else around him.  Total pagans showed more faith than he did, when Jonah was the one that was supposed to set the example.

That being said, it’s difficult to point too many fingers.  After all, we’ve all been given a clear calling from the Lord to make disciples of all the nations: of the people we know & the people we don’t – of the people we like & the people we fear.  How obedient have we been?  How many times have we walked the other way when the Holy Spirit was clearly urging us onward?  How often have we thought it easier to shut our mouths, rather than take the opportunity to speak up for Christ?  If we’re honest with ourselves, we’re a lot more like Jonah than we care to admit.

The good news is that we can change.  Jonah’s attitude changed; so can ours.  To be sure, Jonah is going to continue to struggle with his attitude through the rest of the book, but the fact that we even have the book is evidence that he finally (fully) surrendered to God.  We don’t have to endure God’s discipline in order to humble ourselves before Him.  We can make that choice ahead of time.  We simply have to do it.

As we do it, remember why we do it.  We don’t obey the Lord God simply because we believe He’s the best choice out of all the other gods out there.  We obey the Lord God because He is the true God.  How do we know?  The sign of the prophet Jonah: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jonah’s act of disobedience points to the ultimate act of Jesus’ obedience & triumph: His crucifixion for our sin & resurrection from the grave.  We tell others of the mercies of God because we have received God’s mercies.  We tell them of His love, because we have experienced the love of Jesus. 

So go forth!  Don’t run from the calling of God; embrace it.  Embrace it just as Jesus embraced it for you.

Joy Over Lost Ones

Posted: July 16, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 15:1-10, “Joy Over Lost Ones”

Everyone wants to go to heaven, but not everyone is thrilled with who else will be there.  It’s often been observed that those who do go to heaven will likely be surprised to see some folks there…and they will be just as surprised to see us!

Is there anyone you believe is impossible to be saved?  Is there anyone you don’t want to be saved?  If we are honest, many of us can probably think of a few people with whom we are less than thrilled will be sharing eternity with us.

That’s the way the Pharisees were.  They believed (wrongly) without question that they were going to be in the kingdom of God, and they were going to be a pretty exclusive group.  Some people were so lost that the Pharisees could not (or were unwilling to) imagine them there.  Thankfully, God doesn’t think like Pharisees…neither the Pharisees of ancient Judea, nor the Pharisees of today.  There is no one so lost that cannot be found by God, and God rejoices over them when they are found!

In Luke 15, Jesus tells three parables to illustrate this concept: the Parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son (which is commonly called the Prodigal Son).  In many respects, the ideas behind the parables are identical, even though the details vary.  The first two set the scene, and prepare the way for the third.  The first two also have a focus upon the joy of the finder, whereas the third adds an additional component of the complainers. 

God rejoices over lost ones!  Not because they are lost, but because they were lost.  It is they who have the privilege of experiencing the amazing grace of God, just as John Newton famously wrote: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound / That saved a wretch like me / I once was lost, but now am found / was blind, but now I see.”  If anyone knew what it was to be lost, it was Newton.  John Newton was a sailor and slave-trader who had trouble getting along with people, and was eventually himself sold into slavery.  He was eventually freed, and in 1748, had a spiritual awakening.  It wasn’t until 1754 that he left slave-trading, and ended up becoming a strong force for the Abolitionist cause. Looking back, Newton did not consider himself a full Christian believer during the time he still worked as a slave-trader, but certainly did afterwards.  Newton had been completely lost, blinded by his culture and his own wickedness.  That is who Newton was, but that is not how he is remembered, for that is not what he became.  This most wicked of men was found and gloriously saved by God, and God used him to minister to countless numbers of Christians over the past 250 years.  Heaven rejoiced over the salvation of Newton, because someone who was lost, was found.

God rejoices over lost ones.  He rejoices over you

Luke 15:1–10

  • The Pharisee’s complaint (1-2)

1 Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him.

  • This may seem like minor details, but this is actually crucial for what’s to come.  Leading up to this point in Luke’s gospel, Jesus had been among the religious elite.  It may not have been the best of circumstances (considering that it was a setup from one of the rulers of the Pharisees), but it was still among the scholars and lawyers – the Pharisees and the scribes.  It was them that Jesus warned were not included among those answering God’s invitation to the kingdom, no matter what they might have believed about their automatic entry.  Next, Jesus had been seen among the multitudes, preaching the need for them to count the cost of discipleship.  Many of the Jews hanging around Jesus would not be able to be His disciple because they were not willing to surrender everything else for His sake.  So if the kingdom would not include the religious elite…if the Jewish multitudes weren’t among Jesus’ disciples…who is left?  The cast offs: “the tax collectors and the sinners.”  The ones that the Pharisees deemed not only unworthy of the kingdom, but absolutely deserving of judgment.  Those were the ones drawing near to Jesus now.  They were coming “to hear Him.
  • Every testimony is unique, but ultimately every testimony is the same.  At some point, we all draw near to Jesus to hear Him.  Every Christian started out as a non-Christian (even if he/she was born into a Christian home), and at some point along the way, our interest in Jesus was piqued, and we gave Him special attention.  And guess what?  Not a single one of us deserved to hear Him.  We may not have included ourselves among the tax collectors & sinners, but that’s who we were.  Even the most “innocent” among us is still guilty of treasonous sin against God.  How many lies does it take to become a liar?  How much anger or how many lustful thoughts do we need to admit a lack of self-control?  How much pride?  Any sin is rebellion against God, and our lives have been full of it.  None of us is worthy to hear Jesus, as there is “none righteous, no not one.” (Rom 3:10)  Yet we still have the opportunity to draw near to Him & to hear Him.  In fact, that’s what He invites us to do.  He invites the unworthy ones, the cast-offs, the unexpected to hear Him & to be found by Him.
    • This might include some of you here today.  Be listening for the voice of Jesus – the call of the Holy Spirit to your heart.  Hear what He says to you, and then respond.

2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”

  • The tax collectors & sinners came, and how did the Pharisees & scribes respond?  They “grumbled / complained.”  The word used by Luke refers to murmuring & whispering.  Most likely, this wasn’t out in the open with the Pharisees confronting Jesus.  The picture is more that of complainers hanging out in the background, talking to one another with disapproval as to what they saw.  Not that their disdain wouldn’t have been obvious – people whose hearts are filled with hatred have difficulty concealing it, and they usually don’t care whether or not they hide it anyway.
  • What was the problem?  Jesus welcomed people they didn’t want welcomed.  For the Pharisees, the message of God’s kingdom was for worthy people, deserving people…people like them. (Or so they thought!)  People who were outright sinners didn’t deserve to hear the message of the kingdom; all they needed to hear was judgment & damnation.  More than that, people like that needed to be pushed aside & punished by general society, in addition to the punishment they would receive from God.  Certainly, they shouldn’t be welcomed & received by rabbis or other supposedly-respectful people in society.  Jesus was breaking all of their rules!  “This Man” welcomed the traitorous tax collectors, and everyone else publicly known as sinners.  This Jesus went so far as to share meals with them, even after He got done dining with the leaders of the Pharisees.  How dare He! … Thankfully, that is exactly what Jesus does!  If Jesus never received sinners, none of us would be saved!  If He received people like us, then who else should be denied?  No one. 
  • The reaction of the Pharisees seems a bit ridiculous to us at first, but people still struggle with this idea today.  What does it mean for Jesus to welcome sinners & spend time with them?  Did He not care about their sin, or did He join them in the midst of their sin?  Don’t those lost in sin need to hear about judgment, rather than a promise of heaven?  We need to be careful not to let the prejudices of the Pharisees force us into an either/or position.
    • Yes, those in sin need to hear the law of God.  The last thing they need is a false promise of a salvation they have not yet received, and the law is the very tool that God uses to bring us to the feet of Jesus. It is our tutor/schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. (Gal 3:24-25)  Even so, that does not mean there is no place to share the love and grace of God.  After all, it is the goodness of God that draws us to repentance. (Rom 2:4)  The law awakens us to our need, and God’s goodness reveals to us the cure.  Jesus never once abandoned this principle; He just used it in a way that the Pharisees didn’t expect.  It was the Pharisees who were the proud & hard-hearted sinners, and Jesus consistently used the law to show them their need for salvation.  As to the publicly-known sinners, these were people who already knew their sad condition, thus they were given the gospel.
    • No, Jesus never approved of, nor engaged in the sin of those He welcomed.  Just because He received tax collectors doesn’t mean He collected taxes.  Just because He received adulterers doesn’t mean He gave permission to commit adultery.  People sometimes get the idea that because Jesus ate with sinners, that He just hung out with them, not caring about their sin while He just had common conversation with them.  Thus, we can go to the bar & get drunk with everyone else, because Jesus hung out with sinners, so we should too.  Right?  Wrong.  Jesus consistently called people out of their sin.  When He called Matthew to be a disciple, He didn’t tell Matthew to keep engaging in his tax collecting along the way.  When Jesus dined at Zacchaeus’ house, Jesus didn’t approve of Zacchaeus’ past sins, and Zacchaeus was so impacted by Jesus’ presence that he gave it all up immediately.  If we are to welcome sinners as Jesus did, it means we need to be ready & willing to be among them, but unwilling to be like them.  You cannot win people to Christ whom you’ve never met; Christians absolutely must engage unbelievers in real, authentic relationships.  At the same time, we cannot (and dare not!) compromise our own actions in the process.
  • The Pharisees may have grumbled amongst themselves, but Jesus knew exactly what was in their hearts, and He responded appropriately.  Vs. 3…
  • The Parable of the Lost Sheep (3-7)

3 So He spoke this parable to them, saying: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?

  • As we’ve done at other times in the gospel of Luke, it needs to be emphasized this is a parable; not a straightforward teaching, nor an allegory.  Jesus does not relate a historical event, nor does He provide so much symbolism that parallels need to be found for every single aspect.  It is a parable, which means we are to look for a primary point…and Jesus is going to be make it obvious.
  • If the parable sounds familiar, it’s because the same parable is taught in Matthew, though a different context.  Matthew 18:12–14, "(12) “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? (13) And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. (14) Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish."  At that time, Jesus taught this to His disciples, in regards to the need for their own humility, and their need to be like little children in their faith. (Mt 18:3-4)  God has His eyes on the humble, caring for them deeply.  He wants them to be saved.  In Luke, the audience isn’t the group of disciples struggling with pride and humility in the midst of their faith; it is the group of Pharisees struggling with pride outside of faith.  They had pride and hardheartedness towards other people coming to faith.  The Pharisees already saw themselves as “saved;” but they believed they were the only ones.  Jesus tells them otherwise.  He tells them of a shepherd who sought out others.  He tells of a shepherd willing to leave 99 behind, all for the sake of finding one that strayed.
  • Question: Is the shepherd irresponsible with the 99?  Not at all.  Again, this is a parable, told to make a singular point, specifically in response to the complaints of the Pharisees and scribes.  They weren’t concerned about the salvation of tax collectors; they were concerned that Jesus was receiving tax collectors.  They didn’t want tax collectors & other sinners to be saved; they believed those people deserved the judgment they were to receive.  What they missed was their own hypocrisy.  All of us deserve the judgment that we would receive without salvation!  Not a single one of us deserves the grace of God, or to be included in the heavenly kingdom.  If we treasure it so much for ourselves, that’s not something we can hold back from others.
    • This gets to the heart of evangelism.  We, as born-again Christians, have been entrusted with the wonderfully good news of Jesus.  We have the news of how (literally) anyone can be saved & transformed for all eternity.  This is truth to which we cling; but it’s not truth that is to be horded & hidden away.  No one loses his/her salvation by sharing it; we only experience more joy when we do!  How can we hold it back?  How can we not share the good news of Jesus with others?  To do so is to engage in the hypocrisy of the Pharisees: wanting the best for us, desiring nothing for others.  Share the news!  Tell your testimony – demonstrate the love of Jesus – invite people to church – hand out a gospel tract.  Do something (anything!) to let people know of the Jesus who seeks them and offers to save them.  You might be the only Christian they encounter all day, all week, or even all their lives.
  • Notice the love of this shepherd.  This is a shepherd concerned about all of his sheep.  He knows each one, and is immediately concerned when one is missing.  He himself goes off, being willing to personally endure hardship to ensure that his lost sheep is safely found.
    • This is the gospel!  Jesus personally left the glories of heaven to seek out sinners and to save them.  He personally endured hardships on our behalf.  Did He have to leave?  No.  God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit would have been perfectly content on their own without any of us.  But God wanted us.  He wants humanity reconciled with us, so the Father sent Jesus to seek us out, and He seeks us out individually.  Jesus died for all humanity at the cross, but we aren’t saved corporately.  Jesus died for all, but all are not automatically saved.  Individually, one by one, we come to faith in Jesus.  Each of us at some point has been the “one sheep” that was lost, and Jesus came to find us and bring us home.
    • This might be you.  Today might be your day that you hear the voice of Jesus calling you, searching you out.  When the Shepherd calls, you need to respond.  You have no idea how long you will hear His voice, or if you will hear it again.  When Jesus comes to seek you, be willing to be found by Him!
  • What happens when he finds it?  Joy!  Vs. 5…

5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’

  • The key word: “rejoice/rejoicing.”  There is joy when the sheep which was lost is found.  The shepherd was happy that he found his lost sheep, and he was so overjoyed by it that he had to share it with his friends.  Grammatically speaking, there’s nothing special about the word used for “rejoicing;” it is the typical word found throughout the Scriptures.  Theologically speaking, it is profound.  God rejoices over lost ones who are found – which is exactly what Jesus is leading up to in the parable.
  • BTW – notice what the shepherd does with the sheep: “he lays it on his shoulders.”  Typical action for a shepherd with a lost/injured sheep.  Although it’s not the main point of the parable, this is exactly what Jesus does with us: He carries us.  When people are saved, we are saved by grace through faith, with our own works contributing nothing. (Eph 2:8-9)  Thus when we say we “come to faith” in Jesus, our language breaks down a bit because we aren’t doing anything; we’re passively responding to the work of Jesus for us.  He does the work – He carries us by His grace.  In responding to Jesus, we simply do not struggle against the work He does.  If He didn’t carry us, we wouldn’t go anywhere.  Our faith is merely our reliance upon Him to carry us in the first place.
    • FYI – Regarding the oft-told illustration of a shepherd breaking the leg of a sheep that wanders, then carrying it on his shoulders while the leg heals…it’s a myth.  It might make for a nice sermon illustration, but there’s no basis for it in practice or history.  In the parable, the shepherd carries the sheep back to the rest of the flock, bringing it home…nowhere is it mentioned that the leg is broken.  Even Psalm 23 says nothing about broken legs; just the disciplinary staff of the Lord our Shepherd.
  • Again, the main point is that of joy…and the fictional joy expressed in the parable is literal joy expressed in heaven.  Vs. 7…

7 I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

  • Heaven rejoices over repentant sinners!  There is joy among the heavenly beings when people respond to Jesus in faith.  Heaven rejoiced over you!  Think of it: as a born-again Christian, the very moment you put your faith in Christ, heaven threw a party.  That’s not said to put the focus on you, but upon the grace of God.  After all, how amazing is God’s grace if He could rejoice over someone like me?  This rotten, no-good sinner – this depraved person – even someone like me (and like you) was extended the grace of God.  God sought us out, and we were found.  That’s a reason for rejoicing! 
  • Reminder: what is repentance?  Repentance is a turning – it is a change of mind and direction.  We so much change the way we think about something, that our actions follow as a result. It’s not being sorry; it’s more.  It is contrition combined with change.  People can say they are sorry about their sin all day long, but if they’ve done nothing to change, then how sorry are they?  Think of it in terms of disease.  Someone can say, “I’m sorry about smoking – it’s hurting me & making me ill.”  But if they never take any steps to change, how sorry are they?  Obviously their thinking hasn’t really changed – deep down, they still believe they can do it without consequence. (Not to pick on smoking.  The same analogy could be used with drinking, poor nutrition, or any other habitual action.)  Real repentance involves a change. To the context here, a person changes by turning to Jesus in faith.  A person turns away from sin, and turns to Christ.  Someone hears the call of the shepherd, and responds.  They turn away from self-reliance, and turn to dependence upon Jesus.  They turn away from themselves, and turn to Jesus as Savior.  They repent.
  • In the parable, nothing was said about the repentance of the sheep.  Why?  It wouldn’t make sense.  Literal sheep have no reason to repent.  Again, this is part of the reason we need to interpret it within the proper literary context of a parable.  The parable teaches two main points: (1) lost things are searched out, (2) there is joy in finding that which was lost.  A lost sheep is found by a seeking shepherd, and the shepherd rejoices.  Lost sinners are found by a seeking Savior, and He rejoices when they are found.  But how are they found?  Though repentance.
  • Repentance is crucial to salvation!  Without repentance and faith in Jesus, no one will see the kingdom of God.  But not everyone believes they need to repent. They believe in their own self-righteousness, that they’ve done enough good works in themselves for inclusion in the kingdom of God. That was the problem of the Pharisees, and what Jesus referred to as the parable ended: “ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”  Obviously, no one is just/righteous on their own.  Again, none are righteous apart from the grace of God (no, not one – Rom 3:10).  But some people believe that they are.  In comparison with others, they aren’t so bad…they’re downright saints!  They’ve never committed a felony, they gave money to charity, they helped people when they could – they’ve been truly good people, so if anyone deserves to go to heaven, they do.  But that’s the problem: no one deserves to go to heaven.  What we deserve is hell.  Even the best among us have still sinned against God at some point.  If nothing else, the person who claims to have never sinned has committed the sin of pride…and pride leads to a host of other problems.  The people who don’t believe they need to be saved, won’t be.  And this is why heaven rejoices over the sinners who repent, rather than the 99 who don’t.  Those 99 are 99 people who need to repent, but never see the need.  Those 99 are doomed.  No matter how they lived their lives, if they lived it without turning to Jesus, they will suffer eternity without Him.

That was parable #1.  The 2nd parable changes the characters & objects, but the action is absolutely identical.  Jesus had a point to make, and it was so important to Him that it was worth repeating.

  • The Parable of the Lost Coin (8-10)

8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?

  • The setting changes from that of a shepherd to a woman, which was not in itself unusual, but we want to be careful not to miss the description, or we’ll miss the picture painted by Jesus.  The “ten silver coins” refer to the drachma, each coin worth only 18-19 cents, but those 18-19 cents had far more purchasing power in that culture & economy!  According to one dictionary, it was the price of a sheep, or 1/5 the price of an ox. (BDAG)  This woman had ten of this silver coins, and yet she apparently lived very modestly in a one-room house that could be completely swept in her search.  Thus, this money was likely all the woman had – it was her whole livelihood.
  • With that in mind, it’s no wonder she searched the way she did!  One coin was a lot of money, and she was going to search out every nook & cranny to find it.   If an object is valuable enough to you, you’re going to do whatever you can to seek it out.  You aren’t guaranteed to find it, but you’re going to ensure that you tried your hardest.
  • That’s how Jesus describes this woman regarding her coin, and that’s what Jesus says about God regarding us.  He does what it takes to seek us out.  He went to extreme extents.  How else would you describe the incarnation and the cross?  John writes that the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. (Jn 1:14)  Isaiah wrote that Jesus was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquity. (Isa 53:5)  Paul wrote of both aspects, that Jesus: Philippians 2:7–8, "(7) but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. (8) And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross."  This is the very definition of extreme!  What can top the Infinite God leaving heaven in order to serve – than the Creator making Himself as one of His creations – than the Author of life allowing Himself to experience death?  Jesus held nothing back in His quest for you & me!  He could have done nothing more in His search than what He has already done.

9 And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’

  • As with the earlier parable, there is joy upon recovering what was once lost.  How much joy?  Enough for this woman to throw a block party!  She called together everyone she knew, in order that they could share in her joy of finding what was lost.
  • Christian musician Andrew Peterson wrote a song loosely based on this parable, written from the perspective of a modern-day penny.  Some of the nuances of the parable are missed, but Peterson truly captures the joy: “But I heard about a penny found, lying underneath the couch / By a woman who was kneeling down, looking for some change. / Then the woman danced around and called her friends all over town / Told them what was lost is found, it’s another penny saved. / And so I find that all this time beneath the surface I could shine / Like all the gold a king and queen could measure / You see even a penny is a treasure.” (“Loose Change,” Clear to Venus, 2001) 
  • Question: Why did the woman rejoice over the found silver coin?  She valued it.  Why does God rejoice over us?  He values us.  You matter to God.  Yes, even people like you & me matter to Jesus.  This is one of the things that makes His grace so amazing!

10 Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

  • Once again, Jesus makes the parallel to heaven.  Just as the shepherd rejoiced with his friends & neighbors, and the woman rejoiced with her friends & neighbors, so does God rejoice with others besides Himself.  His joy is shared by the heavenly “angels.”  Why do the angels rejoice?  Because this is an aspect of God’s character of which they can never share.  Salvation is foreign to them, as the work of Jesus does not appear to be extended to them. Jesus came as an incarnate human when He went to the cross, thus He died as a substitute for humans; not angels.  The angels who fell with Satan seem to be fallen for all eternity, and hell was specifically created for them. (Mt 25:41) Thus, salvation is something that the angels cannot know.  They either belong to God, or they don’t.  This is why they angels that do serve God rejoice when humans are saved.  We experience an aspect of God they can never truly know: redemption.
  • How many repentant sinners does it take for the angels to throw a party?  Just one.  Each individual person who puts his/her faith in Christ is a person over whom the angels rejoice.  Better yet, it’s a person over whom God rejoices! 
    • It may seem strange to have so much focus on our value to God, and His joy over us, yet these are the words of Jesus.  Sometimes we get the idea that because our culture focuses far too much on self-esteem, that the proper view of ourselves is self-hatred.  That’s not the case, and isn’t what the Bible teaches at all.  Are we sinners?  Yes – but Christians are sinners saved by grace.  We are sinners beloved by God.  We are sinners who are so valued by God that He sent His only begotten Son to die for us at the cross.  We matter to Him.  That’s not something for us to get a big head about, but it does mean that God has a purpose for us as His people.  You mattered enough for God to save you; you matter enough for God to use you.
    • Rant alert, re: the “one” sinner.  Sometimes this is used to justify massive financial expense in evangelism.  “If only one person repents, it was worth it!”  Praise God for the one repentant sinner, but was there a better way to reach that one person?  Perhaps for the same amount of money, there could have been 3-4, or even 10-12.  Granted, it may take a bit more hands-on work, with a much smaller profile “event,” but wouldn’t the same reasoning be applicable?  Those who repent are worth it.  We need to stop using this as an excuse to throw the biggest events, and start using it as it was intended: as motivation to go reach the lost with the gospel.
    • The bottom line: Almighty God, along with all heaven rejoices over sinners who are found.  God’s great desire for us is to repent, and place our faith in Jesus.  Will we do it?  You can make heaven smile today.  Repent & believe!
  • That brings us back around to the initial setting that provided the impetus for Jesus to teach these parables.  The Pharisees and scribes were not rejoicing in the many people who were turning from their ways to hear from Jesus & potentially put their faith in Him to be saved.  If the angels rejoiced, why wouldn’t they?  What stops them from rejoicing?  Pride…  Legalism… Lack of love…  Lack of faith/worship/knowledge of God… Those who truly know God rejoice when others get to know God.  That’s simply the natural response.
    • Do you rejoice when people believe?  Do you rejoice when sinners repent?  If not, you’d do well to ask yourself why.  Is it prejudice against certain people?  Is it a lack of love in general?  Perhaps it’s an indication that you need to examine your own faith.  Perhaps you’re the one who needs to repent.  Repentant people rejoice over repentant people.  Christians rejoice over other people becoming Christian.  They don’t have to look exactly like us, nor worship exactly the way we do.  But if they have truly put their faith & trust in Jesus as Lord, then we ought to rejoice.  We want our church to grow, but ultimately that matters nothing in comparison with God’s Kingdom.  We want the Church to grow; that’s something to rejoice over!

Conclusion:
God rejoices over lost ones who repent.  He has sought you out, found you, and carried you back to Himself.  He, along with all His angels, rejoiced the moment you were saved.  He did whatever was necessary to bring you to faith, and you responded through repentance.  Praise God!  If that’s you, be sure you join the rejoicing. Help others experience that same joy.

If that’s not you, then join the repentant!  God is seeking you, and has called you.  He offers to freely save you, but He isn’t going to make the decision for you.  You’re the one who needs to repent…so do it!

A Word for Edom

Posted: July 13, 2017 in Obadiah, Uncategorized

Obadiah, “A Word for Edom”

To say that brothers and sisters fight is not a cliché, so much as it is a plain fact.  Although some siblings grow out of their disagreements & become great friends later in life, other cases of sibling rivalry last through the generations.

The Biblical patriarchs were no different than the rest of us when it came to sibling rivalry, and in some ways, perhaps they define the term.  To this very day, the conflict between Ishmael and Isaac consumes world headlines in the form of conflict between the Muslims and the Jews.  That is a dispute that will eventually be solved, though it will not be until the day that Jesus returns in power and glory.

Other sibling conflicts were resolved earlier in history, but they had still endured for generations on end, one of which being that of Esau and Jacob.  The twin sons of Isaac, they struggled against each other from their day of birth (literally!), and the enmity between them was passed along to their national descendants: Edom and Israel.  When Israel was freed from Egyptian slavery, heading to their land of promise, Edom refused the nation passage through their lands. (Num 20:14-21)  When the Israelite monarchy began, Saul waged war against the Edomites, treating them no different than the other Gentile nations around him. (1 Sam 14:47)  David solidly defeated the Edomites, and they became his servants. (2 Sam 8:14)  The Edomites began rebelling against Israel during the reign of Solomon (1 Kings 11:14), and this back-and-forth went on for the remainder of the Jewish kingdom, with Edom generally being on the losing side of the battle.

Thus it might come as no surprise that when the kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonians, the Edomites rejoiced.  But that’s not all Edom did.  Edom actually assisted in the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem, and gloated over the Jews at their defeat.  Thus what might have been understandable is actually sin.  They took joy in the suffering of God’s chosen people, and that was something God would not allow to go unaddressed.

Thus we have the book of Obadiah.  Perhaps the best way to remember the theme of the book is “Obadiah = Oh Bad Edom.”  This is God’s sovereign word against the Edomites – His judgment for the sins they committed against His people.  Had Israel & Judah sinned?  Yes – without question.  The very reason that God brought in the Babylonians in the way He did was due to the sin of the Jews.  They had repeatedly violated their covenant agreement with God, and the Lord Almighty could not allow it to pass.  Thus He brought in the Babylonians as His tool of judgment.  But just because Judah was judged by God didn’t mean that God had cast them away.  It didn’t mean He stopped caring for His people, or that He no longer had a plan or future for them.  He did!  The Jews may have broken their covenant with God, but God did not break His covenant with them.  God made them inviolable promises, and those promises would be kept!

One of those promises was spoken to the ancestor of both Israel and Edom: Abraham.  Genesis 12:3, "I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."  That covenant promise was passed from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob, who became Israel.  When Edom cursed the Jews, Edom cursed Israel…and God would act in their defense.  It is God’s judgment against Edom that Obadiah records in his letter.

It is a specific word for a specific time and a specific people.  Is there anything for us today?  Absolutely!  If there is one thing that is perfectly clear in the little book of Obadiah, it is that God is not just the God of Israel; He is the Sovereign God over all the world.  God sees the suffering of His people, and He will act in their defense.  We can trust in the plans of our God who rules over the nations.  Whatever it is that goes on today, our Lord is not ignorant of them.  Have faith that the God who loves you is the God who stands for you.

Obadiah

  • Edom’s sentence (1-9)

1 The vision of Obadiah.

  • That’s it…that is all of the personal information we have regarding the prophet.  We know nothing specific of his family, or anything else of his background.  The name “Obadiah” is fairly common in the Old Testament, and there’s no way to connect this particular prophet with any of the other men mentioned in the Bible.  Considering that his name translates to “Servant of YAH,” (עֹֽבַדְיָ֑ה ) it’s quite possible that the name is generic. In any case, the prophet doesn’t put any attention upon himself, and perhaps that’s the way he wanted it.
  • Although Obadiah writes nothing of his timeframe, we can actually guess with fairly decent accuracy as to when he wrote.  Jerusalem fell to Babylon in 586BC, and Edom fell to Babylon (under a different king: Nabonidus; not Nebuchadnezzar) in 553BC.  Considering the content of Obadiah’s prophecy, it seems that he wrote the book (page?) at some time between those two points.  Obviously, Jerusalem had indeed fallen, and Edom’s turn was coming.  This oracle was the proclamation of Edom’s soon fall.
  • Whether or not Edom actually received this prophecy is another question altogether, and one that cannot be answered with any certainty.  God had given this vision, but it could have been while Obadiah was captive in Babylon with no way for the message to be taken to Edom.  Or, perhaps Obadiah was one of the few allowed to stay behind, and he personally took it to them.  In the end, it’s irrelevant.  God had given many prophecies concerning Edom through other earlier prophets (Isaiah, Amos, Jeremiah), and Edom had plenty of opportunities to repent, if they had been interested.  In the end, that’s not really the main point.  Although the primary people in Obadiah are the Edomites, the primary audience are the Jews.  The Jewish people needed to remember that their covenant God still loved them & still acted on their behalf, even when they were helpless to do anything about it.
    • That’s something for all of us to remember, especially during times in which we may be experiencing the discipline of God.  God’s discipline doesn’t mean we are unloved; quite the opposite!  It is because God loves us that He chastens us. (Heb 12:6)  He certainly still loves us, grieves with us in our suffering, and desires His best for us.  Trust Him!

Thus says the Lord GOD concerning Edom (We have heard a report from the LORD, And a messenger has been sent among the nations, saying, “Arise, and let us rise up against her for battle”):

  • Where was Edom?  To the southeast of Judah.  It was to there that the nations would go, prepared for battle.  War was on its way to Edom, just as it had previously come to Judah.  This time, it wouldn’t be a singular nation, but many “nations” that would put the nail in the coffin of the Edomites.

 

2 “Behold, I will make you small among the nations; You shall be greatly despised. 3 The pride of your heart has deceived you, You who dwell in the clefts of the rock, Whose habitation is high; You who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’ 4 Though you ascend as high as the eagle, And though you set your nest among the stars, From there I will bring you down,” says the LORD.

  • Many have noted that the famed rock city of Petra is located within the borders of ancient Edom, but it is unlikely that Petra is envisioned by the phrase “you who dwell in the clefts of the rock.”  Petra was founded by the Nabateans, the people who pushed out the Edomites from their land, and it was their capital city.  That being said, it is possible that the Nabateans got the idea to carve their city into the rock from the Edomites who had done something similar.  The word translated “rock” is most likely a word-play on the Edomite capital, Sela (spelled the same way).  That was the city in which the Edomites took refuge, but they would find that it was insufficient.
  • The whole idea here is of a proud people brought low.  The Edomites had shown themselves to be insolent & presumptuous, and it would all come back upon their own heads.  They had exalted themselves, but they would find themselves humbled – humiliated by the Lord God.  Interestingly, similar language is used of the king of Tyre, which itself was reflective of that of Satan, in his own rebellion against the Lord.  Ezekiel 28:14–16, "(14) “You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. (15) You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you. (16) “By the abundance of your trading You became filled with violence within, And you sinned; Therefore I cast you as a profane thing Out of the mountain of God; And I destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the fiery stones."  It was pride that caused Satan to lift himself up to blasphemous and traitorous thoughts against God, but God still cast him down to the earth.  It was pride in their economic prosperity that caused Tyre to believe it could do whatever it wanted, and God humbled them.  Likewise, it was pride that caused Edom to believe they could gloat over the defeat of God’s people, and just like with all the rest, God would show them otherwise.
    • Pride is truly a Satanic sin, yet it is one into which many of us fall…and often!  Pride is antithetical to the gospel.  Pride tells us, “I can do it!”  The gospel tells us, “I can do nothing; God must do it.”  Pride tells us, “I don’t need the Lord!”  The gospel tells us, “My only hope is the Lord!”  Lest we think otherwise, born-again Christians often fall into the trap of pride.  We think we have the power to live the Christian life on our own.  We think we have strength in ourselves to take on spiritual battles.  We think we can look temptation in the eye, and come out unscathed.  Experience shows us differently!  Attempts to live out our Christianity in our own power are based in pride, and founded in legalism.  It is our attempt to “do,” and inevitably we find out that we fail.  What we need is grace.  From beginning to end, we are absolutely dependent upon the grace of Jesus.  We need the power of the Holy Spirit.  We need the guidance of God the Father.  It is when we receive these things – when we are fully & wholly dependent upon Jesus – it is only then that we can glorify Him with the life He has given us.  Pride always takes us away from Jesus; grace takes us to Him.
  • Proud people will fall, and that is exactly what Edom would learn.  God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble. (Jas 4:6)  We can be humble, or we can be humbled.  Edom would learn the latter.

5 “If thieves had come to you, If robbers by night— Oh, how you will be cut off!— Would they not have stolen till they had enough? If grape-gatherers had come to you, Would they not have left some gleanings? 6 “Oh, how Esau shall be searched out! How his hidden treasures shall be sought after!

  • What was about to befall Edom would be nothing like anything else they had ever faced.  Other tragedies would have an end.  Other conquests might leave something behind.  Not this time.  Nothing would be left. All that Edom possessed would be lost – even the things they believed were safely hidden away.  When God allowed judgment to come to Edom, it would be total.
    • God’s judgment is always total!  When people finally stand before the Lord at His great white throne, every thought, deed, and word will be exposed.  Men & women will have to account for everything, and everything will be judged to the fullest extent.  Nothing will be hidden from Him.
    • Which only underscores our need for Jesus!  The total judgment for our sin has already been received: by Christ!  He has taken it all, on our behalf.

7 All the men in your confederacy Shall force you to the border; The men at peace with you Shall deceive you and prevail against you. Those who eat your bread shall lay a trap for you. No one is aware of it.

  • Speaking of betrayal.  Edom had allied itself with other nations against Israel in the past, but the Edomites would soon find themselves alone in their defense.  Historically speaking, the Edomites actually helped the Babylonians in their conquest of Jerusalem.  From their perspective, that was all well & good, up to the point that Babylon set their sights on Edom.  The nation they had once shared a shaky “peace” with, turned against them.  And what Babylon left behind, other nations later consumed, truly forcing Edom “to the border” of its land, to the point they actually lost their ancestral home.

8 “Will I not in that day,” says the LORD, “Even destroy the wise men from Edom, And understanding from the mountains of Esau? 9 Then your mighty men, O Teman, shall be dismayed, To the end that everyone from the mountains of Esau May be cut off by slaughter.

  • How would it take place? All of this destruction would be by the hand & will of God.  This was no mere accident of the nations – this was not the rise & fall of world empires or other geopolitical overturnings of the ancient near east.  This was the act of God, the LORD YHWH: the covenant God of Israel.  Edom had risen up against beloved people of God, and God acted on their behalf.  God would destroy Edom, and there was nothing Edom could do about it.
  • Who would be left?  No one.  All over the land, all generalized by the major Edomite city of “Teman,” the “mighty men” and warriors would be destroyed.  “Everyone” all over the land would be “cut off.
  • This is a fearsome prophecy!  Is it accurate?  Yes. Again, Edom was attacked by Babylon in 553BC, and like Judah before them, they were conquered.  Out of the people who remained in the land, the Nabatean people (nomadic people, primarily of Arabic descent) came into the land once possessed by the Edomites, and took it for themselves.  Although they lost their land, the Edomites survived, as they moved into the southern areas once held by Judah, and they became known by the Greek-version of their name: Idumea. Over time, empires rose & fell, and the Jewish people were able to briefly gain independence (recorded in the non-canonical books of the Maccabees).  This Jewish kingdom, known as the Hasmonean dynasty, conquered Idumea, taking back the land for themselves in 125BC.  Once Rome asserted itself over the entire Mediterranean coastline, the region was still known as Idumea, but the people group had fallen into decline.  Herod the Great was actually an Idumean, but he was one of the last Idumeans to be known by history.  The people group disappeared, quite literally being “cut off,” per Obadiah’s prophecy. 
    • God keeps His word!  His prophecies are true…so we’d better pay attention to them!
  • Edom’s sin (10-16)

10 “For violence against your brother Jacob, Shame shall cover you, And you shall be cut off forever. 11 In the day that you stood on the other side— In the day that strangers carried captive his forces, When foreigners entered his gates And cast lots for Jerusalem— Even you were as one of them.

  • God had proclaimed a terrible judgment against Edom, and He also told them why they would receive it.
    • For “violence”: Again, they had helped the Babylonians conquer Jerusalem.  Truly the Edomites had been violent against their distantly related brothers!
    • For apathy: Refusal to act in the face of evil is almost as bad as the evil itself.  As God said, Edom “stood on the other side” as Judah suffered.  For that, they would be judged.
    • For enmity: When it came to choosing sides, Edom picked enmity against Israel.  They were no different than the other foreigners who came into Jerusalem to plunder it.
    • The bottom line: Edom could not have been more opposed to the Jews if they tried!  They had roundly earned the judgment of God against them.
  • Not that this news ought to have been surprising or new.  God warned Edom about this in the past.  The prophet Amos had also written of judgment against Edom, writing specifically how Edom engaged in slave-trading of God’s people.  The Philistines of Gaza delivered Israelites over to Edom. (Amos 1:6)  The people of Tyre delivered Israelites over to Edom. (Amos 1:9)  Edom itself engaged in terrible violence against the people of Israel. Amos 1:11–12, "(11) Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because he pursued his brother with the sword, And cast off all pity; His anger tore perpetually, And he kept his wrath forever. (12) But I will send a fire upon Teman, Which shall devour the palaces of Bozrah.”"  Edom had consistently committed violence against his brother, and even after the many warnings given them by God, they refused to repent.  Thus God would deal with them in His judgment.
    • As terrible as it is to consider God’s judgment, think of it from another aspect: one of vindication.  When God acts, it is a good thing!  Think of it: one day, every victim of horrendous crime will see justice done – every act of evil that has escaped earthly punishment will answer to God.  There is no sin or crime that will remain unanswered in eternity.  That is gloriously good news!  One of the things that makes suffering so horrendous today is the fact that we so often cannot see an end or righteous response to it.  God has that righteous response!  God lays retribution upon the wicked.  He has an answer.
    • Of course, we would all face that retribution if it were not for the work of Jesus!  After all, we are just as wicked as those who have sinned against us, though we may have sinned in different ways.  Even so, all sin still has an answer: the cross.  The worst of sinners can still find eternal forgiveness when he/she turns to faith in Jesus.  The cross covers all, and praise God it does!  Without it, none of us would have any hope.
  • As for the prophecy, God goes on to describe the sin of Edom…

12 “But you should not have gazed on the day of your brother In the day of his captivity; Nor should you have rejoiced over the children of Judah In the day of their destruction; Nor should you have spoken proudly In the day of distress. 13 You should not have entered the gate of My people In the day of their calamity. Indeed, you should not have gazed on their affliction In the day of their calamity, Nor laid hands on their substance In the day of their calamity. 14 You should not have stood at the crossroads To cut off those among them who escaped; Nor should you have delivered up those among them who remained In the day of distress.

  • They gloated.  Remember the days after 9/11 when news pictures showed Palestinians dancing in the streets in celebration? (http://www.foxnews.com/story/2001/09/12/arafat-horrified-by-attacks-but-thousands-palestinians-celebrate-rest-world.html  http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/abc-news-footage-shows-911-celebrations/story?id=35534125 )  That was the reaction of the Edomites to the fall of Jerusalem.  The rejoiced and gloated over the people of God.  To be sure, they had warred against the Jews for generations – but that did not earn them to right to take joy in Jewish humiliation.  If nothing else, it ought to have humbled the Edomites.  After all, if God did not restrain from judging His own people, what would stop God from judging Edom?  Nothing…as Edom was about to learn firsthand.
  • They looted.  They “laid hands on [the] substance” of the Jews.  What the Babylonians left behind, the Edomites took for themselves.  Looting has sadly seen an increase in our own culture during times of riots and violence, and it is the sign of a depraved people.  It takes advantage of the weak, and God will judge that evil for what it is.
  • They enslaved.  Just as Edom had done with the northern kingdom, so did they do with the south.  Apparently they rounded up Jews who were left in the land, and delivered them over into slavery.  Again, God saw it all, and He would pour out His righteous wrath.

15 “For the day of the LORD upon all the nations is near; As you have done, it shall be done to you; Your reprisal shall return upon your own head. 16 For as you drank on My holy mountain, So shall all the nations drink continually; Yes, they shall drink, and swallow, And they shall be as though they had never been.

  • All the things Edom had done to Judah – those things would be turned back upon them.  They had drunk in celebration against Jerusalem; now God would pour out the cup of His judgment upon them.  All of the violence, looting, pillaging, enslavement, etc., they had committed against the Jews would come back around to them.  God would be sure of that.
  • We reap what we sow!  This is a principle found throughout the Bible, given both to God’s people and God’s enemies.  Just as Edom would have their own actions returned upon them, so did God promise to His people that they would suffer the consequences of their sin.  As Hosea wrote, they had sowed to the wind, and would reap the whirlwind. (Hos 8:7)  The same principle applies in the New Testament as well.  God is not mocked; what a man sows, he reap. (Gal 6:7)
    • So what does that mean for us?  Take care as to what you sow!  Galatians 6:7–9, "(7) Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. (8) For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (9) And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart."  Sow the good stuff!  Sow love, compassion, and grace.  Sow forth the gospel, and reap grace in return.
    • What is it you’re sowing?  It can be good or bad.  Make it good!

This was Edom’s sentence & sin – their judgment & crime.  How long would it last?  What would be their future?  That’s how the prophecy comes to a close…

  • Edom’s subjugation (17-21)

17 “But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, And there shall be holiness; The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions. 18 The house of Jacob shall be a fire, And the house of Joseph a flame; But the house of Esau shall be stubble; They shall kindle them and devour them, And no survivor shall remain of the house of Esau,” For the LORD has spoken.

  • God would deliver Israel.  Unlike Edom, which would be cut off in history, a remnant of Israel was to be preserved, and given a place of escape/refuge on Mt. Zion.  In other words, the nation of God’s people would be totally restored.  They had been judged because of a lack of holiness, but they would be restored in a condition of complete holiness.  They would be restored to the place and position that God had desired for them all along.  That was His ultimate plan for His people, and despite their stumbling along the way, God’s plan would still be accomplished.
    • Isn’t that fantastic news?  God has a plan for us, as His children.  If you are a born-again believing Christian, then God has a plan for you.  And what He has begun in you, He will see to completion – all the way to the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil 1:6)  Despite all our failings – despite our lack of faithfulness – God still showers us with grace, and does His work within us.  Granted, we may miss out on some things along the way due to our disobedience.  Our stumblings may keep us from some temporary blessings here & there.  But the ultimate plan of God for us will be seen all the way to completion.  God has delivered us, and will continue to deliver us, all the way to the point that we see our Jesus face-to-face in glory!
  • Not only would Israel be delivered & restored, but Israel would be victorious.  In the struggle (sibling rivalry) between Israel & Edom, Israel would be exalted; Edom would be humbled.  Just as Jesus said of individuals: whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Lk 14:11)  So it will be with these two nations.  For a brief window in time, Edom gloated triumphantly over Israel…but it wouldn’t last.  Israel would have the final victory in the end, and the only thing left of the “house of Esau shall be stubble.
    • Our God has all victory over every enemy.  Of that we can be sure!

19 The South shall possess the mountains of Esau, And the Lowland shall possess Philistia. They shall possess the fields of Ephraim And the fields of Samaria. Benjamin shall possess Gilead. 20 And the captives of this host of the children of Israel Shall possess the land of the Canaanites As far as Zarephath. The captives of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad Shall possess the cities of the South.

  • Although this could possibly refer to restoration of the land under the short-lived Hasmonean kingdom (i.e. Maccabees), it probably refers to the total acquisition of all of the Promised Land during the Millennial Kingdom.  Notice what the future Millennial Kingdom of Christ includes among the land of Israel?  All the area once known as Idumea.
  • The point here for Israel is that everything that appeared to be lost would be regained.  Remember that although this prophecy concerns Edom, it is given to a Jewish prophet and contained within the Jewish Scriptures.  Thus, this was a word from God to His people.  He had not forgotten them.  He had not forever cast them aside.  Yes, they were in Babylonian captivity, but that time was temporary.  One day they would be restored to their land, and that restoration will be better than their wildest imaginations.  They will see all of the promises of God fulfilled.  Thus, they could hold on.  They could have faith.
    • Sometimes we have trouble holding on.  Perhaps we know the promises of God through Christ, but everything else in this life distracts us from them.  Perhaps we begin to wonder if they are really real – if God is really going to be good to His word.  After all, heaven seems so far off.  Maybe it’s just a good thought, but nothing that we can hold to right now.  Not so!  It’s real – it’s all real!  Everything that Jesus promised is true.  If you have repented from your sins and placed your faith & trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you can be sure:
      • That you have been forgiven of your sin
      • That you have been granted everlasting life
      • That you have been indwelled by the Holy Spirit
      • That you have been given spiritual gifts from God
      • That you have been made a new creation
      • That you have been given a new purpose
      • That you have the guarantee of an eternal inheritance
      • That you have access to power over sin
      • That you have the promise of eternal deliverance from sin
      • And more!  These are sure promises, made by the Living God to His children.  Hold fast to them – have faith in them.

21 Then saviors shall come to Mount Zion To judge the mountains of Esau, And the kingdom shall be the LORD’s.

  • In the end, Jesus will not just rule over the land of Israel; He will rule over all the earth.  Psalm 72:8–11, "(8) He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth. (9) Those who dwell in the wilderness will bow before Him, And His enemies will lick the dust. (10) The kings of Tarshish and of the isles Will bring presents; The kings of Sheba and Seba Will offer gifts. (11) Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him; All nations shall serve Him."  All peoples everywhere will serve Jesus!  Every knee will bow & every tongue confess that He is Lord!

Conclusion:
Edom had laughed at and done terrible violence against his brother Israel/Judah.  Had God taken notice?  Yes.  They had cursed Israel, and thus God cursed them.  His people may have been in the midst of righteous discipline, but that did not mean God stopped caring for them and protecting them.  He still stood against their enemies, holding true to His covenant promises.

Why?  That’s what God does.  He’s faithful!  He loves us, even when we do not act loving towards Him.  He honors every promise He makes, though we have trouble keeping a single promise of ours.  We may be faithless, but our God is faithful.  He showers us with grace through Jesus, even when (and especially because) we do not deserve it.

Beloved, trust that our God is active within this world!  At times, it may not seem like it.  It may appear as if God has vacated the premises, and the world is in a freefall of chaos.  It may seem as if the wicked will always win.  They won’t.  The Almighty God is still sovereign, and all sin will one day be answered.  Our God is not just our King; He is King over all…even if they do not yet recognize Him.  They will.  That day is coming – of that we can be sure!

What is there of which you’ve had difficulty trusting God?  He still rules the nations – He is still living & active & working out His ultimate will within the world.  Trust Him tonight.  Intentionally commit your problems to His care.  Trust Him to reveal His will & wisdom to you.  He’ll do it.  Because you’re His child, born-again through the grace of Jesus Christ, indwelled with the Holy Spirit, He’ll do it.  Trust Him – have faith.

Or maybe you have less the perspective of Israel, and more that of Edom.  You’ve lifted up your heart in pride against God.  Perhaps it’s a foolish self-sufficiency – perhaps it’s a greater rebellion against God in general.  Tonight, humble yourself!  Far better to humble yourself, than to be humbled by God.  Do it, while you have the opportunity to do so.

Who Cannot Be A Disciple

Posted: July 9, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 14:25-35, “Who Cannot Be A Disciple”

Sometimes we learn more of what something is, by looking at what something is not.  How do we describe “dryness”?  In terms of water, or lack thereof.  How do we generally describe world peace?  With the lack of war.  Even if we already know the concept (ex: cut and polished diamonds are incredibly beautiful gemstones), the comparison with opposites generally helps us learn more (ex: the black velvet setting upon which the gems are placed).

In Luke 14, Jesus used this teaching method with the concept of discipleship.  He described what discipleship is, in terms of what it is not.  Many people might say they want to be a disciple of Jesus; not everyone really wants to do it.  At least, not when they see what it actually involved.  People hear the news of heaven & say, “Awesome…sign me up!”  But when they hear that they need to forsake sin and surrender their lives to Christ, quite a few people change their minds. 

Part of the problem we have with false converts in the Bible Belt is probably due to this.  People are told that to go to heaven, all they need to do is repeat a prayer & ask Jesus to “come into their heart,” without knowing what the phrase even means.  They’re promised a wonderful life, and they’re thrilled…all up to the point that their life doesn’t turn out so wonderful.  They find they still have problems, that their lives haven’t really changed, and they end up deciding that church doesn’t really do anything for them & Jesus doesn’t matter.  They might still claim to be Christian, because they “prayed the prayer,” but they don’t really give Jesus a second thought.  In the end, that’s our fault.  As the church, we sold them a false bill of goods by not telling them what was involved.  We asked them to convert for the promise of heaven, but we didn’t tell them anything about being a disciple.  They were told of a guaranteed assurance of eternal life, without being told of what it cost.

That’s not a mistake Jesus made, and it is crystal-clear in passages such as this.  Can eternal life be assured?  Yes, absolutely!  Do true born-again Christians have a guaranteed promise of heaven?  Yes, 100%.  But there is a massive difference between cultural Christians and born-again disciples of Jesus.  Jesus never once told someone to simple “pray a prayer;” He told them to surrender their lives.  He told them to sincerely believe.  He told them to count the cost.

Jesus never once restricted the offer of His salvation from any group of people.  The Pharisees who (falsely) believed they were automatically saved were still invited to come to faith in Jesus, as was any of the people that might be more unexpected: the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and the Gentiles.  Even so, there were still some who would never be able to be saved: those unwilling to surrender all – those unwilling to count the cost.

Don’t be among them!  The choice is yours.

Luke 14:25–35

  • The conditions of discipleship (25-27)

25 Now great multitudes went with Him. …  

  • The first thing we see is that the setting has changed.  To this point in Chapter 14 (not that Luke numbered his chapter divisions, or even made chapter divisions), the setting has been a Sabbath day supper.  A ruler among the Pharisees in a town through which Jesus was travelling had invited Jesus and many others to his home for a meal/feast on the Sabbath day.  Just as a group of people might go out together after church for a meal together (or even invite them home), so did this group gather after their synagogue meeting on the Sabbath day.  Yet this was no ordinary meal; this was a set-up.  Luke tells us that the Pharisees and religious lawyers watched Jesus closely, looking to see what His reaction would be when a man with a physical disease (dropsy/edema/swelling) entered the room.  This man had been brought as a test.  Jesus was known to perform healings on the Sabbath, and due to the escalating tensions between Jesus and the Pharisees, they wanted a reason to accuse Him.  Of course, Jesus never once broke the Sabbath law, even with His healings, and did it again here, knowing that the heart of God (even on the Sabbath) was to have compassion on those who needed it.
  • It was compassion & humility that the Pharisees lacked, and Jesus pointed it out as He began to teach at the supper.  The religious elite had tried to exalt themselves at the expense of others, and Jesus told a parable of how they were to humble themselves & wait to be exalted by God.  In addition, they weren’t to try to make themselves look good in front of their friends & family, but they were to have compassion and generosity towards the kinds of people who would never be able to repay them.
  • All of this teaching was lost upon some who attended, who still assumed themselves to be included in the kingdom of God.  That’s when Jesus told the final parable recorded at that supper, describing a future supper of the kingdom.  The people who were originally invited refused to come, and in response the Master invited others – the same sorts of people that the original invitees would have despised.  Because the original guests didn’t come, other guests were urgently persuaded (compelled) to come in.  The Master had plenty of room, even if the original guests never saw the need.
  • It was quite a supper!  One might imagine the conversation dropping off quite a bit after Jesus was done teaching. J (Awkward!)  At some point the dinner ended, and Jesus was once again among the crowds – “the great multitudes.”  It’s to them that Jesus continued teaching, and it’s telling that the first subject that is recorded by Luke is who cannot be a disciple.  There were many religious people in that banquet hall with Jesus, but few (if any) of them were willing to count the cost of discipleship.  The Pharisees and religious lawyers had refused to answer the invitation of Jesus to follow Him in sincerity.  Would the crowds?  The masses might physically follow Jesus through the countryside, but would they follow Him in terms that really mattered?  Would they be willing to do what the Pharisees were not, in terms of true discipleship?
  • Jesus starts out by giving them two conditions of discipleship…

… And He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.

  • First things first: what is a disciple?  If we’re going to understand what Jesus means with His conditions of discipleship, we ought to know what a disciple is.  The Greek word is uniformly translated this way.  Out of the 269 times it’s used in the NT, the NKJV always translates it as “disciple,” so we know that it’s pretty consistent…we just need to know what it means.  A disciple is a learner or pupil, but this is far more than simply being a student in a classroom.  Students listen to their teachers, but they aren’t particularly attached to them.  They might not even care about the subject matter, being required to take a class.  That’s not a disciple.  One dictionary says of the classical Greek use of the word: “A man is called [a disciple] when he binds himself to someone else in order to acquire his practical and theoretical knowledge.” (NIDNTT)  In other words, a disciple is best thought of as an apprentice.  A student might listen to his/her teacher for an hour at a time; an apprentice follows his/her master teacher all through the day.  Disciples learn to duplicate the ways of the one who instruct them.  Jesus’ use of the word in the NT takes things up a notch.  Christian disciples are not just learning a trade; they’re learning a life.  Christians don’t bind themselves to just anyone; they completely attach themselves to Christ Jesus.  We are to follow every aspect of the Lord Jesus, in total devotion to Him.
    • If we’re being honest, that doesn’t sound like much of the church today, does it?  Many people have an idea of a part-time Christianity.  Sure, they might go to church, but the stuff they do there stays there.  It doesn’t come into their workplace or recreational time.  They might pray at the dinner table, but the rest of their faith doesn’t bleed over into the rest of their lives. – There might be all kinds of ways of describing that sort of behavior, but it isn’t “discipleship.”  Can you imagine Peter or John or Andrew doing that with Jesus?  Of course not.  They lived with Him, ate with Him, walked next to Him, spent every waking moment next to Him.  Granted, that was easy to do while Jesus physically walked the earth, but it’s not like that kind of devotion to Jesus stopped after Jesus ascended to heaven.  The New Testament shows people like Peter, John, and Paul still totally dedicated to Jesus, devoted & bound to Him.  They had a full-time (not part-time) Christianity.
    • Objection: “But of course they did.  They were called by God into full-time ministry; that’s not for the rest of us.”  Not so!  Yes, they (mostly) had a full-time occupation of ministry (though sometimes Paul made tents to financially support himself), but even Christians who didn’t still had total dedication to Jesus.  Before Barnabas ever started travelling on missions with Paul, he was first had a ministry of encouragement among the church & donated the proceeds from his land sale to the apostles. (Acts 4:36-37)  In Philippi, a woman named Lydia was a seller of purple dye, and she insisted that Paul & those who travelled with him stay at her house within the city as he did the work of church-planting there. (Acts 16:14-16)  These were men & women willing to do anything for Jesus, whatever their vocation/career might have been.
    • Keep in mind that this is what we are called to do & to be.  When the Bible speaks of making Christians, it speaks of making disciples.  Matthew 28:19–20, "(19) Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."  It would have very easy for Jesus to command the disciples to go out and just get a lot of people to pray a prayer of conversion.  He could have told the apostles just to convince people to believe in Jesus for salvation, and left it at that.  But that’s not what He did.  He told them to “make disciples.”  In fact, that’s the primary verb in His command, with the rest of it simply being the description of how to go about it.  Disciples make other disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching.  Is conversion important?  Absolutely!  It’s foundational.  Without conversion, no one gets baptized – no one receives teaching.  But conversion isn’t the equivalent to discipleship; it’s only the beginning of it.  Conversion takes a moment; discipleship takes a lifetime.  Jesus called us to make disciples…that is who we are to be.
  • Condition #1: Hate your life.  Given the book titles that fill the “Christian” section at many bookstores, one can imagine what the reaction of some publishers might have been to Jesus, if they had heard Him at the time.  Jesus purposefully used shocking language to speak of discipleship.  It’s shocking today, and it was shocking then.  Just look at the list: Jesus basically tells people to think of every family relationship they have & then “hate” them. “You want to follow Me?  Great!  Hate everyone else first.”  Does it sound extreme?  It is!  Of course, it’s meant to be, as Jesus was speaking in hyperbole and comparison.  Does Jesus want His followers to literally hate “father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters”?  Of course not.  The 5th Commandment is to honor our parents, and Jesus isn’t commanding law-breaking.  Jesus summarized the entire law by the two commands to love God and to love our neighbors.  On the night of His arrest, He commanded His disciples to love one another.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus even commanded people to love their enemies. (Mt 5:44)  Surely our families are included somewhere in all of that!  Thus, what Jesus says here in Luke 14:26 has to be understood in light of what He said elsewhere.  He speaks figuratively, in hyperbole – speaking extremely about one concept in order to highlight something else.  If a person want to follow Jesus as a disciple, then something else needs to happen: other relationships needs to pale in comparison.  Next to Jesus, our love for our families need to seem like hate.  Next to Jesus, our love even for our own lives need to seem like hate.  As His disciples, we are to place every other priority in our lives under Jesus.  He is first – He is foremost – He is supreme.  Do you love your husband or wife?  Good!  But in comparison with Jesus, your love for your spouse needs to seem like you barely know them at all.  For a disciple of Jesus, all of life is to center on Him – everything else proceeds outward.
    • “But that still sounds extreme!”  It is.  Where in the Bible did Jesus ask for anything less than extreme devotion?  Where did the idea of an easy, cheap Christianity originate?  Not in the pages of the Bible!  The Bible speaks of a God who went through great extremes for us, so we respond in great extremes for Him.  Think of it: what could be more extreme than God clothing Himself in flesh, walking among us as a Man, allowing Himself to be rejected, humiliated, tortured, crucified, and made into a sin-sacrifice for people who hated Him and committed treason against Him?  That is extreme!  Yet that is what Jesus did for us.  In response, the Bible calls us to believe & have faith, yes – but it also calls us to something more.  It calls us to walk worthy of the calling with which we were called. (Eph 4:1)  It calls us to become living sacrifices for Him (Rom 12:1).  It calls us to be disciples.  We are called to whole-hearted, full-on, total devotion to the Lord Jesus, being both His slaves (bond-servants) and friends.  He deserves nothing less.
    • And if you thought that was extreme, just wait for what Jesus says next…

27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

  • Condition #2: Embrace your death.  First was to let everything beloved in your life be like it is hated, in comparison with Jesus.  If Jesus takes first place, everything else takes a far distant second.  This second condition takes it a step further.  Don’t just ‘hate’ your life; embrace death.  Again, is this extreme?  Without question.  But so were Jesus’ actions for us.  This is what He personally did on our behalf, and disciples follow in the footsteps of their Master.  Disciples duplicate the things their Master does.  Jesus bore His cross for us; we bear our cross for Him.
  • Keep in mind that to “bear our cross” is far more than what is often thought today.  People use the phrase to refer to any sort of inconvenience.  Whatever our complaints may be, that is assuredly not what Jesus meant when He spoke of bearing His cross.  For Jesus, His cross was literal.  It was a giant piece of wood digging splinters into His back, which was already thrashed from a brutal scourging, and lugging the timber to the place where He would be crucified upon it.  For Jesus, bearing His cross was to load on His shoulders the very thing upon which He would be killed.  That’s what it meant for Jesus, so we can be sure that He meant something similar for us when He instructed us to do the same.
  • Question: Does this mean He wants us to literally die?  No.  Literal death was something Jesus came to abolish.  He is the resurrection and the life; those who die in Him will yet live, and the person who believes in Him will never die. (Jn 11:25-26)  We all face physical death, but as believing Christians we will never face eternal death.  That is something completely removed by Jesus.  Even so, in the here & now, Jesus still does not call us to literally die.  After all, we’re to be living sacrifices (Rom 12:1); dead people cannot do good works for Jesus.  Dead disciples cannot make more disciples.  So yes, we are to literally live, but we are to live for a different purpose.  Most people live for themselves; we are to live for Jesus.  Most people want to glorify themselves; we are to glorify Christ.  We are to so much put ourselves aside that it is as if we have truly died to ourselves & we live with a new identity: that of a true disciple.
  • Note that this is not the first time Jesus gave such a command.  Luke 9:23–24, "(23) Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (24) For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it."  At first, this might seem foolish, as a trip bearing one’s cross is a one-way ticket.  It’s not something that can be done on a daily basis.  But that’s the point of the hyperbole.  We don’t literally physically die, but we do put our own desires and priorities to death.  We certainly put the lusts of our flesh to death in order that we might serve Christ Jesus wholeheartedly. We reckon ourselves dead to sin & alive to Christ. (Rom 6:11)  As disciples, our lives are to be wholly spent on Jesus.
    • Objection: “But won’t that mean I have nothing?”  Yes…and no.  Sometimes we fear that if we wholeheartedly surrender everything in life to Jesus that we will lose our identity in Him.  There won’t be anything left of ourselves in us.  But consider for a moment if that’s really a bad thing.  If you surrender all of yourself to Jesus, what will remain at the end?  A life transformed by Jesus.  That’s what we claim to want, is it not?  The Bible promises that disciples of Jesus are new creations – we have new lives, and hearts completely cleansed by Him.  If that means it requires that the “old us” go away, then praise God!  That’s what we want!
    • To be totally surrendered to Jesus doesn’t mean we all become robots, zombies, or Stepford wives (depending on your cultural frame of reference).  It doesn’t mean that we have no desires or dreams.  It means that His desires for us become our desires.  It means the things we used to want for ourselves, we no longer want.  Instead, our hearts are transformed by Him to desire the things He wants for us.  Considering that He’s the God who created us, we can trust Him to know what is best!
  • So this sort of discipleship is what Jesus calls us to.  That’s something that ought to be carefully considered, which Jesus goes on to illustrate…
  • Counting the cost (28-32)

28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

  • Example #1: Building budget.  Someone doesn’t start a construction project without proper funding.  The last thing a person wants to do is have a half-built building sitting around, never able to be used.  As a church, we have first-hand experience with this.  We’ve got land, but no building as of yet.  We simply don’t have funding to get started.  That’s not a complaint; just a reality.  Any person, organization, or church body goes through the same thing in any project they undertake.  Do they have the budget to proceed?  If so, great!  If not, then it’s time to wait.
  • In regards to discipleship, have you counted the cost?  Not everyone is willing to surrender his/her entire life to Jesus.  Again, many people want to pray a prayer to be assured of eternity, but not nearly as many want to give what is required to be a disciple of Jesus.  Question: Is Jesus trying to talk people out of discipleship?  Yes & no.  Jesus certainly wants to cut down on the number of false converts.  Far better for someone never to make an insincere commitment to Christ, than for that person to have a false assurance of salvation.  Probably the worst words a person could ever hear from Jesus are “Depart from Me; I never knew you.” (Mt 7:23)  That said, Jesus does want people to believe & to follow Him as His disciples.  He never puts a legalistic burden upon anyone, giving a list of rules & rituals for us to follow.  He never demands slavish service, holding out the false carrot that salvation must somehow be earned.  But He does show that discipleship is true commitment.  And that’s not something that everyone is willing to give.

31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.

  • Example #2: Battle budget.  We don’t have to be great military strategists to know that armies never willingly enter battles they don’t believe they can win.  Situations like the Battle of the Alamo were forced, and undesired by the Texans who were there.  If nations can avoid losing battles by entering diplomatic negotiations, then that’s in their best interest to do.  Better to end up with a bad trade deal, than to lose 10,000 soldiers in battle.  The idea with this example is little different than that of the tower construction (though the stakes are higher!).  Count the cost.  Be sure you’re willing and able to see something through to completion before you begin.
  • Bottom line: this is basic wisdom!  If these things are considered for physical things, how much more should the cost be considered regarding eternal things?  It’s interesting that more people give more thought to their choice of career than to how they want to spend their eternity.  People will carefully consider trade school, college, the military, etc., spending many hours figuring out what they want to do with their lives.  Yet when it comes to eternity, it’s often decided on a whim.  “Do I want to give my heart to Jesus? I guess so.”  Don’t misunderstand: people can decide in a single moment that yes, they want to surrender their lives to Christ.  But however your discipleship begins, it’s more than just a moment.  A commitment to Christ is life-change.  Jesus calls us to nothing less.
    • Know this: it’s worth it!  If you haven’t yet surrendered your life to Jesus – if you’re still counting the cost – know that it is all worth it.  What you lose is nothing compared to what you gain.  What you lose is your sin, your shame, your selfish desires; what you gain is the love of God, life in the Spirit, and the knowledge of your Creator.  It is most certainly worth it to surrender everything to Jesus!
  • Summary: Surrender everything (33)

33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

  • This gets back to the first two conditions: hate your life – embrace your death – leave everything behind.  To “forsake” is to renounce, to take leave of everything that was once ordered & appointed to you.  Turn away from it & leave it all behind.  We might say it another way: burn your bridges.  Burning your bridges is a bad thing, until it isn’t.  In business, you rarely want to burn bridges with customers, because you never know when you might encounter them again.  Likewise with how you generally treat people in a public setting.  But in other contexts, burning bridges is downright necessary.  Sinful lifestyles of the past need to have all ties severed – every bridge burned.  Some personal relationships need to be totally cut off, in order to ensure we don’t fall into the same traps of past sin.  This is the idea in regards to discipleship.  We are to burn our bridges with the past.  We don’t simply give up the way we used to live; we cut off all ways of returning to it.  When we surrender our lives to Jesus as His disciples, we leave ourselves no escape hatch.  There’s no turning back.
    • What’s the difference between a disciple of Jesus & a surface-level convert with an escape hatch?  Two people go up in a plane for skydiving.  Both put on parachutes, but only one jumps.  The person who jumped renounced everything of the past, being wholeheartedly committed to the dive.  In conversion, we might put on the parachute, but it is in discipleship that we jump.  Jesus calls us to jump.
    • Have you taken the jump?  Maybe you’re one who has believed upon Jesus, but you’ve hesitated truly committing to Him.  You’ve tried to live with one foot in Christianity and one foot in the world…and you’ve found that it hasn’t worked out so well.  Your priorities are always torn – you struggle often with temptations and guilt – you don’t really experience freedom & the abundant life that the Bible speaks of.  What do you do?  Count the cost, and truly commit yourself to Jesus.  Take the leap of faith, and jump into wholehearted discipleship.  Surrender everything to Him, totally entrusting yourself to Jesus.
  • Notice something about the two conditions & summary of discipleship: everything is in the present tense.  14:26, “hate” – 14:27, “bear…come” – 14:33, “forsake” – all of these verbs are present tense.  They describe an ongoing state of things.  In other words, it’s not something you do once & then forget.  These are things we do constantly.  Life ebbs & flows.  Some days this comes easy & sometimes it doesn’t.  Even the apostle Paul struggled with his own walk of discipleship with Jesus from time to time.  Did he forsake his life of the past?  Absolutely!  He went from being a Pharisee persecuting Christians, to being a missionary church planter.  But even for Paul there were days he found himself doing things he hated to do, and not doing the things he wanted to do. (Rom 7:15)  By external standards, it might have seemed as if some days he was a “better” disciple than other days.  Thankfully, that’s not the standard by which we are judged.  God sees us through eyes of grace!  God sees us clothed in the righteousness of His Son!  Even so, we need to be mindful & not become complacent in how we follow Christ.  An initial commitment to follow Him is necessary, but it’s not the end; it’s only the beginning.  Every day is a new day to walk as a disciple (and to be reminded of the grace of Jesus!).
  • Worthwhile disciples (34-35)

34 “Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? 35 It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

  • All of the previous discussion perhaps made sense in terms of discipleship, but what about all of this talk about salt?  What does salt have to do with anything?  Actually, it has quite a bit.  Jesus taught the need to count the cost – to forsake everything in order to follow Him as His disciple.  What does it look like when a person does not?  What happens with the person who outwardly looks like he/she is following Christ, but inwardly is not His disciple at all?  That person is like savorless salt.
  • To understand the illustration, we need to understand how salt was used in that particular culture.  We hear “salt” and think of cooking (table salt).  Or perhaps we think of warfare, where lands might be overly salted, in order to prevent future farm growth (which historically speaking, was a far rarer practice than we might imagine).  Yet in this case, we need to think not as cooks, nor as historians, but as ancient farmers.  In the right doses, salt was actually used as ancient fertilizer.  The Roman historians Cato, Virgil, and Pliny all write of how salt was used to improve farmland, rather than destroying it.  All life requires at least some salt to survive (which is why wars have been fought over it), and that includes plant life.  Sea salt has a variety of minerals within it, beyond pure sodium chloride, which makes it beneficial for certain crops & soils.  Thus it can be good for land, and for manure piles (“dunghills”), increasing the efficiency of each.  With that in mind, Jesus’ statement goes from making little-to-no sense in terms of discipleship, to being extremely relevant!  Disciples of Jesus are supposed to be salt of the earth, in terms of our influence within the world.  Actually, that phrase could be translated “salt for the earth,” which perhaps makes Jesus’ teaching within the Sermon on the Mount make a bit more sense.  Matthew 5:13–15, "(13) “You are the salt of/for the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. (14) “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. (15) Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house."  Jesus has a purpose for us as His disciples, as we impact our world around us for His glory & gospel.  We are to fertilize the world with the gospel of Christ, taking His message and love with us everywhere we go.  We are the vessels through which God spreads His message, helping His kingdom grow.
  • So what happens when we don’t do it? Nothing…and that’s the problem.  When we aren’t salt, then we don’t fulfill our purpose.  When disciples aren’t acting as disciples, then other disciples aren’t made.  The kingdom does not expand – the love of Christ is not experienced – the gospel is not proclaimed.  Nothing happens, and it’s not a good thing.  Salt is supposed to be salty.  When it’s not, it’s worthless.
    • Does that mean that we are worthless?  God still loves us – Jesus still died for us – He still showers us with grace.  Someone doesn’t lose his/her salvation depending on their failure as salt within the world.  Our worth is always found in Christ; never in our actions.
    • That said, if salt has absolutely no characteristics of being salt, is it right to identify it as salt in the first place?  If someone claims to be a Christian, but has no characteristics identifying himself/herself with Jesus, can he/she truly be called a disciple?  Failure doesn’t determine our worth, but a complete absence of salty discipleship is a worthwhile wake-up call! 
  • BTW – how might salt lose its flavor?  As a mineral, it has the properties of that mineral, no matter what.  Again, think of sea salt rather than table salt.  This wasn’t a “pure” mineral, and it could disintegrate or sometimes be mixed with gypsum dust.  How might a disciple lost his/her saltiness?  Impurity – getting mixed with stuff of the world.  There’s a reason Jesus calls us to wholehearted discipleship.  Anything else makes us less fit for use.

Conclusion:
What does it take to be a disciple?  Everything.  The person who cannot be a disciple is the person who loves his/her life more than Jesus.  The person who cannot be a disciple is the person seeking to promote himself.  The person who cannot be a disciple is the person unwilling to leave everything else behind.

Jesus calls us to something different.  He calls us to jump.  He calls us to profound dedication, where everything else gets left behind as we follow Him in His footsteps to the cross.  It is a commitment, so count the cost!  Half-hearted decisions to follow Jesus leave us wholly worthless in the Great Commission.  So consider it carefully – but follow through!  Jesus may give us an extreme invitation, but it’s worth it!  We may surrender our current desires, but He gives us better ones in return.  We may forsake some temporary pleasures, but He gives us eternal joy.  There are many who hesitate to follow Jesus in full-throated discipleship, but not a single person who does regrets it.  Do you want to experience abundance of life?  This is the way.  This is how you will know your Creator in the relationship He has always intended for you.

Time’s Up

Posted: July 6, 2017 in Amos, Uncategorized

Amos 7-9, “Time’s Up”

Sooner or later, it’s time to pay up.  In the famed fable of the Pied Piper of Hamlin, the townspeople refused to pay the Piper for his services in ridding the town of rats, so he ended up ridding the town of their children.  More to reality, when we take out loans from the bank or charge bills to our credit cards, eventually those debts come due.  There comes a certain point when the price needs to be paid.

Thankfully, when it comes to our sin, the price has been paid.  That’s why the message of Jesus is called “good news” – gospel!  Jesus paid a debt He did not owe, with a price we could never pay.  When it comes to the eternal consequences of our sin, the born-again Christian can know that his/her bill has been paid-in-full!

But that’s for the Christian, for the one holding fast to Jesus by faith.  What about the non-believer?  What about those who rely upon themselves, or simply give no thought to God whatsoever?  Their debt keeps getting higher & higher, and their judgment becomes worse & worse.  The Bible is clear that the wages of sin is death, and we’ve been sinning multiple times every single day since the day we were born.  If a person sinned only three times per day, over the course of a single year he would amass nearly 1100 sins by the end, nearly 22000 sins over 20 years, and over 76000 sins over 70 years…each one carrying a penalty of eternal death.  It’s no wonder the descriptions of hell are so awful!  That’s an immense debt to pay, and at a certain point all bills come due.

That’s true with individuals, and it’s true with nations.  The ancient kingdom of Israel/Samaria had incurred its own debt against God, and as Amos’ book of prophecies come to a close, it’s clear that the debt had come due. Israel had abandoned its covenant relationship with God, choosing to walk away from Him, ignoring His many warnings.  Although they were invited to seek the Lord & live, their sins continued to increase, as they walked through motions of pagan worship without any true repentance towards God.

Now the time had come for judgment.  God gave several visions to Amos, showing what that judgment would be like.  Some was able to be averted through the intercession of the prophet, but not all.  Eventually, it had to come, and it did.  All Israel would feel the wrath of the God they had abandoned. Not that the nation was completely without hope…because of God’s faithfulness, there would be a remnant.  But that was all.  For now, the bill was due, and it was time to pay.

Amos 7

  • Visions of Preparation (Ch 7).  Vision #1: Locusts (7:1-3)

1 Thus the Lord GOD showed me: Behold, He formed locust swarms at the beginning of the late crop; indeed it was the late crop after the king’s mowings.

  • Although this sounds familiar to the book of Joel, note that this is a vision & not a historical narrative.  This was a warning of a coming future judgment.  What would it be?  A locust swarm (much as what was historically described in the book of Joel) that wiped out the “late crop.”  After the king had taken his due (firstfruits), then the rest would normally belong to the people.  As it was, there was nothing left for the people to gather and eat.  They would go hungry.

2 And so it was, when they had finished eating the grass of the land, that I said: “O Lord GOD, forgive, I pray! Oh, that Jacob may stand, For he is small!” 3 So the LORD relented concerning this. “It shall not be,” said the LORD.

  • Amos intercedes, asking for forgiveness.  For as much as Amos was despised by the people of the northern kingdom (as will be seen later), he still had compassion upon them.  The two nations may have split in generations past, but Amos still saw them as brothers & he prayed to God on their behalf, pleading that they might be forgiven.  “Jacob” (Israel) was too “small” – too weak a nation to face this.  They didn’t know what they were doing, even though they should.  They didn’t deserve forgiveness, but Amos asked for it anyway.
    • That’s what forgiveness is: something that is undeserved.  If we could earn our way out of punishment, then that’s a wage we’ve earned.  That’s a way we have worked off the consequences of our crime.  That’s not what forgiveness is.  Forgiveness is pardon – release.  And that’s exactly what we need!  We can’t work off our debt (it’s far too great!); we must be forgiven of it.  And we are, through the work & intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ!
  • And God did it!  God “relented” from the judgment.  Depending on the context, the word can speak of sorrow, grief, and even comfort.  Here, the idea is regret for a certain act.  The Lord God changed His mind regarding His judgment.  He was going to send this judgment of locusts, but now He would hold back.  It wasn’t that God is capricious or double-minded; it’s that He’s gracious.  This is something He chose to do after Amos spoke up on Israel’s behalf.
    • God responds to prayer!  We don’t always know how or in what ways God chooses to answer prayer, but we know that He does.  When the ancient Hebrews sinned against God at Mt. Sinai with the golden calf, Moses interceded on their behalf, and God relented from their punishment. (Exo 32:14)  When Jesus had been nailed to the cross, He interceded for the people mocking Him, asking God for their forgiveness, for they didn’t know what they were doing. (Lk 23:34)  Did the Father answer Jesus’ prayer?  God certainly didn’t send fire down from heaven at that moment to wipe them out!  Yes – God answers prayer.
    • Some people don’t pray because they think they never see the answers to their prayers.  In all likelihood, we see far more answers than we realize!  Even so, God desires that we pray, so we ought to pray.  Prayer may benefit someone we’re praying for – prayer may benefit us as we seek the face of God – prayer may have all kinds of benefits of which we’re never aware.  We cannot dictate to God how He should answer prayer, but we can know with confidence that He does answer prayer!
  • Vision #2: Fire (7:4-6)

4 Thus the Lord GOD showed me: Behold, the Lord GOD called for conflict by fire, and it consumed the great deep and devoured the territory.

  • The second vision was an escalation in the judgment.  Beyond a famine, this ranged into a drought.  Some judgment of fire consumed the land, dried up the waters, and “devoured the territory.”  Whether it as a supernatural plague of fire, a super-hot drought, a wildfire, or some massive fire set by an enemy is unsaid.  Whatever it was, it was severe.

5 Then I said: “O Lord GOD, cease, I pray! Oh, that Jacob may stand, For he is small!” 6 So the LORD relented concerning this. “This also shall not be,” said the Lord GOD.

  • Amos again intercedes, this time asking for God to “cease,” rather than “forgive.”  Why the difference?  Perhaps Amos knew that Israel’s sin would not cease, so he figured it was better to ask God to cease the punishment.  Perhaps there’s less of a difference than we make it out to be.  After all, to turn back from a punishment is to cease from extending it.  Whatever the reason for the difference in the request, the reasoning from Amos is exactly the same.  If God didn’t turn back, Israel/Jacob would be destroyed, being unable to stand.
  • Again, God responded to Amos’ prayer.  Twice Amos interceded, and twice God answered.  Yes, God was in the process of showing Amos something bigger than a couple of nationwide judgments, but there’s no getting around the fact that God acted in response to Amos’ prayers.
    • If that’s the case, why don’t we pray more?  Has God changed?  Perish the thought!  He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever.  God is still a God that answers prayer.  What is needed is a people who will pray more.
  • Vision #3: Plumb line (7:7-9)

7 Thus He showed me: Behold, the Lord stood on a wall made with a plumb line, with a plumb line in His hand.

  • The third vision changes direction a bit, not showing immediate judgment, but a “plumb line.”  The word is unusual in Hebrew, perhaps referring to a piece of tin or lead, but most English Bible translations take it to be a tool made from tin or lead: that of a plumb line that would be used by a carpenter or some other sort of builder/contractor.  It’s used to ensure that a wall is built perpendicular to the ground, being straight instead of leaning to one side or the other.
  • Why a plumb line?  It’s a standard.  God holds the ultimate standard in His word.  God gave Israel His law; God has given us the entirety of the Old and New Testaments.  How do we know right from wrong?  By matching up our actions with the Scripture, and seeing God’s character revealed in the pages of the Bible.  How do we know right doctrine?  We take what we hear & compare it with the standard of the word of God.  Without a standard, we have no foundation – we’re left to the whims and decisions of men & their traditions.  That can lead to a very dangerous place!
  • So we know that God has given us a standard – the question is: what do we do with it?  As for Israel, they abandoned it, which was one of the reasons for judgment.  Vs. 8…

8 And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said: “Behold, I am setting a plumb line In the midst of My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore. 9 The high places of Isaac shall be desolate, And the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste. I will rise with the sword against the house of Jeroboam.”

  • The idea is that Israel would be judged by God’s standard.  In the first two judgments, God relented when Amos interceded for them – perhaps He could give them mercy based upon their ignorance, or for some other reason.  This time, no mercy would be given.  God’s mercy had already been given in the standard they had received.  The northern tribes received the same law of Moses as had the southern tribes, despite the political divisions between them.  They had the same history & the same Scriptures.  The north had the same standard, but they rejected it. In the vision, God shows that they didn’t meet the standard, so they would be judged by it.
  • The description of the judgment is severe!  In Egypt, God had passed over His people as His angel passed through the land.  No longer would He pass by the Israelites.  This time, they would feel the full extent of His wrath.  All of the pagan places of worship would be destroyed, and the royal dynasty of Jeroboam II would be wiped out.  All because they left the clear instruction of the Scripture.
    • Don’t leave the standard!  Don’t abandon the word!  The Bible is such a gift from God to us, and it is good for everything we require as Christians. 2 Timothy 3:16–17, "(16) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, (17) that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."  That’s not something to ignore – that’s not a book we can afford to allow to get dusty.  That’s something to treasure!  To learn – to know!  The more we get into the Bible, the better we know our God.  The better we know our God, the better we’ll worship Him & walk with Him.  Hold fast to the standard!
  • What did it look like for Israel to have departed from God’s standard?  An example is given next…
  • Parenthesis/Example: Priestly opposition (7:10-17)

10 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words. 11 For thus Amos has said: ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, And Israel shall surely be led away captive From their own land.’ ”

  • There’s no small amount of irony in this small bit of historical narrative.  Amaziah is a false priest (“the priest of Bethel”), yet his name means “YAH is mighty.”  This false priest was upset with the word of God, as given through Amos, and thus rejected it.
  • Question: how can God’s truth be a conspiracy?  When the people who hear it don’t like what God has to say.  This is what happens when people abandon the word of God.  If the Bible isn’t actually God’s word – if it isn’t the standard – then it just becomes one voice among many.  The opinions of men become more valuable, and people pay attention to the things they want to hear.  God’s truth becomes despised, which is what happened with Amaziah (and many other people today!).

12 Then Amaziah said to Amos: “Go, you seer! Flee to the land of Judah. There eat bread, And there prophesy. 13 But never again prophesy at Bethel, For it is the king’s sanctuary, And it is the royal residence.”

  • The priest tells the prophet to leave.  Amaziah rightly calls Amos a “seer” (he had, in fact, seen visions from God), but his implication is that Amos only did it for the money.  If Amos was going to invent visions from God against Israel, he might as well go back to Judah & do it there.  Amos was originally from Tekoa (south of Bethlehem), so Amaziah basically tells him to go back home.  The priest didn’t want this prophet among them; what Amos had to say stirred up too much trouble.
  • Keep in mind that Amaziah was a false priest – a pagan priest.  It’s no wonder he rejected the true word of God!
    • There will always be opposition to God’s word.  Jesus told us to expect it, so get used to the idea.  They hated Him first (Jn 15:18), so it’s only natural that they will hate people who cling to Him & His word.
    • So what do we do?  Stay faithful.  Keep proclaiming the gospel.  Some will reject it, but others will listen.  Some may even hear us out, repent towards God, and get saved!  Keep in mind that even rejected prophets like Amos & Jeremiah kept preaching.  We cannot control the reactions of others; we can only be faithful to the calling of God.

14 Then Amos answered, and said to Amaziah: “I was no prophet, Nor was I a son of a prophet, But I was a sheepbreeder And a tender of sycamore fruit. 15 Then the LORD took me as I followed the flock, And the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel.’

  • Amos’ defense: he wasn’t trying to make money as a prophet; he hadn’t even wanted to be a prophet!  This wasn’t something he chose for himself; this was something God called him to do.
    • We may not all be prophets, but as Christians, we’re all called by God.  We need to follow God’s calling, no matter what others might say.
  • Amaziah may not have wanted prophecies from Amos, but he was going to hear them.  In fact, Amos had a specific prophecy from the Lord just for him.  Vs. 16…

16 Now therefore, hear the word of the LORD: You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel, And do not spout against the house of Isaac.’ 17 “Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘Your wife shall be a harlot in the city; Your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword; Your land shall be divided by survey line; You shall die in a defiled land; And Israel shall surely be led away captive From his own land.’ ”

  • Amaziah’s own family would suffer the worst kinds of judgment, along with the rest of the people of Israel.  Israel would indeed fall, the people would suffer.

Amos 8

  • Visions of Judgment (Ch 8-9). Vision #1: Summer fruit (8:1-14)

1 Thus the Lord GOD showed me: Behold, a basket of summer fruit.

  • Compared to the previous visions of locusts, fire, and the plumb line, this seems downright strange.  Why “summer fruit”?  NIV says “ripe fruit,” and that seems to get to a bit of the idea.  There’s some word play between the word for “summer fruit,” and the word for “end,” (קַיִץ vs. קֵץ ) and the pronunciation of the northern dialect would have made it further parallel (if not virtually identical).  The end had come for the northern kingdom.  Just as fruit was to be harvested at the end of the season, so had it come time for Israel’s harvest in the judgment of God.  Vs. 2…

2 And He said, “Amos, what do you see?” So I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the LORD said to me: “The end has come upon My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore. 3 And the songs of the temple Shall be wailing in that day,” Says the Lord GOD— “Many dead bodies everywhere, They shall be thrown out in silence.”

  • Once more, God says He “will not pass by” His people any longer.  He had given them enough opportunities to change, and they wasted them.  The end had arrived – the time was ripe – judgment would not & could not be avoided.
  • Too many people procrastinate when it comes to God, and eventually they find out that they procrastinated too long!

4 Hear this, you who swallow up the needy, And make the poor of the land fail, 5 Saying: “When will the New Moon be past, That we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, That we may trade wheat? Making the ephah small and the shekel large, Falsifying the scales by deceit, 6 That we may buy the poor for silver, And the needy for a pair of sandals— Even sell the bad wheat?”

  • Word against the greedy.  They had no thought as to worship.  No matter what day of the week or month it was, they just wanted to sell.  ‘Forget the Sabbath & New Moon feasts – just do whatever you need to do to make a profit.’  (Much the same could be said about our own commercialized culture today!)
  • On top of their indifference towards God, they were dishonest, taking advantage of the less fortunate.  They changed the size of their coinage, giving themselves the advantage.  They used tampered scales, making it seem like their customers were getting a better deal than what they really were.  They even engaged in slave trading.  Keep in mind that even in their split from the southern kingdom, the people of the north were still Israelites.  They were supposed to be children of God.  They certainly didn’t act like it, and it was something God was not able to ignore!
    • God never ignores cruelty…especially when cruelty is done in His name by those who are supposedly His people.   Those who abuse the less fortunate in the name of God do so at their own peril!

7 The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: “Surely I will never forget any of their works. 8 Shall the land not tremble for this, And everyone mourn who dwells in it? All of it shall swell like the River, Heave and subside Like the River of Egypt.

  • Pride” = Exaltation/majesty.  This is what God should have been among Israel/Jacob.  He should have been their pride.  Thus, He swore by Himself – the highest possible standard for any oath.  What was it He swore?  “I will never forget any of their works.”  He would not forget their sin.  No matter what they said or did in their insincere worship – no matter what sacrifices they offered in their paganized idolatry – God would not forget their many sins.
  • He didn’t then, and He doesn’t today.  God does not forget unforgiven sin.  People might forget the things they’ve done, but God never does.  Every sin must be answered on the Day of Judgment.
    • That’s unforgiven sin.  Thankfully, God does not hold forgiven sin against us!  Psalm 103:12, "As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us."  Beyond that, He even chooses not to remember them!  Isaiah 43:25, "I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins."  Can God ever truly forget them?  An omniscient God knows everything by default – but He can choose not to actively remember our sins.  He can choose to see us in Christ, which is exactly what He does.
    • One catch: we have to be in Christ to receive this promise!
  • As for Israel, they had not sought forgiveness in the Lord.  They had chosen not to repent, thus God would forever remember their sins.  They had not sought the atonement of God, thus they would have to answer for themselves.

9 “And it shall come to pass in that day,” says the Lord GOD, “That I will make the sun go down at noon, And I will darken the earth in broad daylight; 10 I will turn your feasts into mourning, And all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on every waist, And baldness on every head; I will make it like mourning for an only son, And its end like a bitter day.

  • Question: is this description literal or figurative?  Technically, it could be either.  God could certainly speak of a day where He brings a solar eclipse or some other form of darkness all over the land.  Or, He could simply paint a dire picture of smoke rising in the air, from the fires of burning buildings and other warfare.  Either way, it wasn’t a good picture for Israel.  God promised a day of total defeat and lamentation.
    • It seems possible that Israel’s experience here prefigures the suffering during the days of the Great Tribulation.  Some of the description here coincides with descriptions in the book of Revelation regarding famine, supernatural darkness, and more.
  • Truly, these days (both for Israel during the Assyrian invasion & during the Great Tribulation) would be awful.  What would be the response of the people?  Vs. 11…

11 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord GOD, “That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the LORD. 12 They shall wander from sea to sea, And from north to east; They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, But shall not find it.

  • After all this time, finally the people would seek out the word of the Lord, but they wouldn’t find it.  Not only would they experience a famine of physical food, but they’d experience a famine of a far worse kind: that of the word of God.  At this point, when judgment had fallen, they would want to hear from a true prophet of God!  They would want a word of comfort from the Lord.  People would look for it, but wouldn’t find it.
    • This gets back to the idea of whether or not it’s ever too late.  In a sense, yes.  At a certain point, God allows some things to be set into motion and it can be too late to seek their reversal.  In our interpersonal relationship with God, it’s never too late to repent & seek His face (as long as our hearts remain soft and available for that repentance).  But in regards to judgment & consequences – sometimes we can wait too long.
    • The key is not to wait!  Don’t push it to find the limit; repent when you know you need to repent.  Repent while your heart is still soft enough to respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
  • In the case of Israel, they had never wanted God’s word (as demonstrated through Amaziah); now they wouldn’t be able to find it when they wanted it.  They had relied thus far upon false idols; it would be up to those idols to deliver them…and it would fail.  Vs. 13…

13 “In that day the fair virgins And strong young men Shall faint from thirst. 14 Those who swear by the sin of Samaria, Who say, ‘As your god lives, O Dan!’ And, ‘As the way of Beersheba lives!’ They shall fall and never rise again.”

  • The false gods would fall.  The “sin of Samaria” is likely a reference to the golden idols built by Jeroboam I.  Those were the false gods worshipped all over the land, figuratively mentioned as ranging from Dan to Beersheba.  The gods in whom Samaria trusted were useless, but the Samaritans would only learn this too late.

Amos 9

  • Vision #2: God at the altar (9:1-10)

1 I saw the Lord standing by the altar, and He said: “Strike the doorposts, that the thresholds may shake, And break them on the heads of them all. I will slay the last of them with the sword. He who flees from them shall not get away, And he who escapes from them shall not be delivered.

  • The final vision of judgment is most terrifying of all, as it shows God personally “standing by the altar,” ready to exact judgment as the Warrior-Commander of the heavenly armies.
    • BTW – If Amos sees a visual representation of God, who does he see?  The pre-incarnate Lord Jesus!  He is the image of the invisible God…
  • Once God moves in His judgment, His judgment is total.  All would be conquered – none would escape.
  • Not that it would stop people from trying.  Vs. 2…

2 “Though they dig into hell, From there My hand shall take them; Though they climb up to heaven, From there I will bring them down; 3 And though they hide themselves on top of Carmel, From there I will search and take them; Though they hide from My sight at the bottom of the sea, From there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them; 4 Though they go into captivity before their enemies, From there I will command the sword, And it shall slay them. I will set My eyes on them for harm and not for good.”

  • Wherever people went, they would be found.  They could go down “into hell” (Sheol / the grave) and they wouldn’t be able to run from God.  They could fly into the sky (“heaven”) and not escape.  No hiding place anywhere on land or sea would spare them from the judgment of God.  He saw them everywhere, and would find them every time.
    • It is impossible to hide from God!  It cannot be done! … Stop trying to run from Him; run to Him!
  • Notice the dedication God shows to His grisly task in vs. 4: “I will set My eyes on them for harm and not for good.”  What about the promises of God given to Jeremiah, so often quoted by Christians today? Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."  (1) Contextually, this promise is given to the people of Judah; not Israel/Samaria.  (2) Contextually, God also foresaw a day in which His people would repent & seek His face.  Jeremiah 29:11–13, "(11) For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (12) Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. (13) And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart."  This is the part that’s often not quoted, but yet essential to the prophecy.  God doesn’t indiscriminately promise all good to all people; He promises His good plans & thoughts to His repentant people – specifically the southern nation of Judah when He brings them out of Babylonian captivity.  There is indeed a principle to be learned for all of God’s people during every era: God hears us when we repent.  Just be careful about misapplying a specific national promise out of context.
  • As to the point for Israel: God was just as dedicated to their destruction as He was for Judah’s future restoration.  Once His judgment was decided, it was final.  They would not escape.
    • We praise God when we realize that if God is for us, none can be against us.  But it can just as easily go the other way.  If God is against us, we have no hope!  (How can we be certain that God is for us?  By surrendering our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ!  He is the way, the truth, and the life!)

5 The Lord GOD of hosts, He who touches the earth and it melts, And all who dwell there mourn; All of it shall swell like the River, And subside like the River of Egypt. 6 He who builds His layers in the sky, And has founded His strata in the earth; Who calls for the waters of the sea, And pours them out on the face of the earth— The LORD is His name.

  • Incredible description of the all-powerful Almighty Lord God.  Not only is He the Lord over all places everywhere (the grave, heaven, Carmel, the sea, etc.), He is also the Lord able to do anything because He created everything.  This is not a God we want to have angry with us!
  • Don’t leave this text frightened; leave it as you rejoice in the Lord Jesus!  THIS God is THAT God.  The Lord Jesus Christ IS the one who touches the earth & it melts, etc.  Our God is the only true God – and He is a God who loves us, who has saved us, who protects us, and more!  The Lord God whose name is “I AM” is the God who knows us by name and who has called us to Himself & made us His own children!
  • That’s the relationship Israel should have had with God.  They didn’t.  Vs. 7…

7 “Are you not like the people of Ethiopia to Me, O children of Israel?” says the LORD. “Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, The Philistines from Caphtor, And the Syrians from Kir? 8 “Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are on the sinful kingdom, And I will destroy it from the face of the earth; Yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,” Says the LORD.

  • Instead of acting like God’s covenant people, they acted like Gentiles.  They were no different than other pagan peoples from far-off lands, who knew nothing of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Despite everything God had done for them, the Israelites acted as if they hadn’t known Him at all.
  • Even here, notice one glimmer of hope: there would be a remnant. “Yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob.”  Israel/Samaria’s destruction was guaranteed, but there would still be a remnant that remained.  There would still be bloodline genealogical children from the various ten northern tribes.  They would survive & endure, all due to the grace and mercy of God.  God had made an everlasting promise to Abraham, and He would see it done.

9 “For surely I will command, And will sift the house of Israel among all nations, As grain is sifted in a sieve; Yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground. 10 All the sinners of My people shall die by the sword, Who say, ‘The calamity shall not overtake nor confront us.’

  • Both judgment and mercy is described here.  There would be judgment as the entire nation would be sifted through the sieve of God’s wrath.  At the same time, there would be a few who remain – the “smallest grain” would not be lost.  Although some would never believe the message of judgment (“calamity”) until it came upon them, it would certainly come.  None would escape.  But God would preserve in His way & in His time.
  • When would the remnant be seen again?  That’s what God reveals to Amos in the last part of this final vision, as the scene changes entirely from judgment to mercy.
  • Final Vision: Grace & Restoration (9:11-15)

11 “On that day I will raise up The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, And repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old; 12 That they may possess the remnant of Edom, And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,” Says the LORD who does this thing.

  • Promise of restoration.  Note this is for the whole house of “David;” not just the northern kingdom.  What was once a failing tent would be transformed into a solid, established house.
  • More than a reunited Israel being reestablished in their own land, they are also promised an expanded rule: one that spreads over the entire earth!  During the Millennial Kingdom, the Edomites & the other Gentiles will serve the Lord God under the supervision of Israel.  It is from Israel that the Lord Jesus will rule the entire world.

13 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, And the treader of grapes him who sows seed; The mountains shall drip with sweet wine, And all the hills shall flow with it.

  • Quite the reversal from the days of famine, drought, and judgment!  In the future, blessings will be so abundant, that the only problem will be keeping up with it all.

14 I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; They shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. 15 I will plant them in their land, And no longer shall they be pulled up From the land I have given them,” Says the LORD your God.

  • The captives will be returned.  And to some extent, they already have.  (1) The southern people came back after the Babylonian captivity & eventually repopulated even the northern regions, as seen in the days of the Maccabees & Roman Empire.  (2) We see it in modern times as the political nation of Israel was reestablished in 1948, and today possesses the lands of the north, enjoying the fruits of their labors.
  • Yet ultimately, this is not a prophecy regarding either of those events, but of the Millennial Kingdom.  That’s a day in which Israel will be forever secure. “No longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them.”  The promise they inherit in that day will be theirs forever!
    • God keeps His word to them, just like He keeps His word to us!

Conclusion:
There’s much judgment in these last several prophecies of Amos – but there is also much reason for hope!  God knew the suffering and torture that His people would have to endure.  They had chosen to persist in their rebellion against Him, never taking the many opportunities they had been given to repent.  Now it was time to pay up.  The bill had come due, and it could not be avoided.  They would fall into the hands of the Living God, and that is indeed a fearful thing!

Even so, as a people, the Israelites would not be forever destroyed.  Why not?  Because God had made promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David, and those promises would be kept.  The nation of Israel deserved total annihilation; yet God would preserve a remnant from which to rebuild.  That’s an act of sheer grace.

That’s how He interacts with us.  We deserve death for all eternity – in ourselves, we have no claim upon the forgiveness of God.  We deserve the worst of what He could give us.  But in Christ, we receive something totally different!  Because of the promises the Father made to the Son, we receive the sheer grace of God.  God is good to His word, and our salvation rests upon that fact.

Even so, this is not something for us to abuse.  We dare not try to find the limits of God’s mercy!  When we rack up debts of sin, we can be sure that at some point the bill will come due.  We reap what we sow.  Ensure that your bill is covered by Christ!  Stay humble – stay dependent upon Him – remain sincerely broken & repentant before the Lord, and be assured in His faithfulness & the sufficiency of His work.  Don’t run from God; run to Him.  Seek Him, His glory, and His grace through Jesus, and there is no doubt you will find Him.

Luke 14:15-24, “Don’t Miss Your Opportunity!”

One of the worst things my daughter could hear when she was little was that she had lost an opportunity.  It didn’t matter what the item/activity was, if she lost her opportunity, it was as if her world came tumbling down.  As for myself, I wasn’t much different.  As a child, I hated missing out on something, especially when I knew it was my fault that the opportunity passed me by.  As an adult, I realize that it’s impossible to take advantage of every opportunity, but there are still some you don’t want to miss: time spent with family, enjoying simple pleasures, etc.

Of course, the best opportunities come from the Lord.  Each day is a new chance to walk with Him in faithfulness & worship.  It’s a chance to know our Creator & Savior, and to walk in the Spirit-filled abundant life that He promises.  Those are opportunities we don’t want to miss!  Although for Christians, all of eternity will be spent in Jesus’ presence, this life is our one opportunity to be introduced to Him and know Him as our Savior.  If we let this chance pass us by, we won’t get another one.  So we want to know Him!  We want to respond to His invitation!

So why don’t more people do it?  Even as born-again Christians, why don’t more people desire to walk in closer intimacy with the Lord, getting to know Him better?  Why don’t we take advantage of the opportunities we have?  We procrastinate & make excuses.  Because the Lord is available every day, we push Him off to another day, always thinking that we can start tomorrow.  And as the cliché states: tomorrow never comes.  Sooner or later, opportunities stop coming around, and we wake up one day realizing what we’ve missed.  And when it comes to our relationship with God, that’s something that can have eternal consequences.

As Chapter 14 began, Jesus had been invited to a Sabbath meal that the home of a ruler of the Pharisees.  Where, we don’t know, but at the end of Chapter 13, Jesus was still mindful of His mission ahead of Him in Jerusalem, so surely this was in some town along the road.  The supper was actually a set-up, as the Pharisees and lawyers closely watched Jesus as a man with dropsy (edema/swelling) entered the room.  They wanted to see if Jesus would heal the man on the Sabbath, and this man was simply a tool to get Jesus to act – he was bait for the trap.  Of course, Jesus healed the man, not breaking the Sabbath law, but not caring about the legalistic traditions of men.  The lack of love among the Pharisees was evident, and Jesus gave some teaching to illustrate it.  What God desired from these men was humility and sincerity.  Exaltation would come in due time, if God gave it, but humility was needed in the present.  So was love.  God wanted them to care about those who were least & forgotten.  If the Pharisees served the least & the lost, then God would reward them in due time.  God would reward all of His people at the resurrection of the just – it would be a magnificent blessing.

All of that happened at one dinner.  So what happened during the rest of the time?  Another man spoke up, saying things that he may or may not have understood, and that gave Jesus the platform for some clarifying (and sobering!) teaching.  Everyone in the room was already participating in a great feast, but there was a better one coming: the banquet in the kingdom of God.  And just as Jesus had done on other occasions, He made it clear that not everyone will be there.  This time, Jesus gives a bit more insight as to why.  Many would be invited, but few would come.  If people missed out on God’s kingdom, it’s not because God didn’t invite them.  God gives the opportunity; they don’t take it.

Don’t miss your opportunity to be included in the kingdom of God!  Stop making excuses for yourself, and respond to the invitation of Christ!

Luke 14:15–24
15 Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!”

  • Jesus had given a sobering & convicting teaching about the need to show compassion to the least & forgotten among them (the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind), which was something the host of the supper had not done when he brought in the man with dropsy as bait for Jesus.  But if humble, sincere worshippers of God did so, inviting people like this to their feasts, demonstrating the compassion of God among them, then they could have the assurance that God would reward them with blessing at the future resurrection of the just.  It was in response to this that one of the other men at dinner spoke up with this exclamation of blessing. 
  • Who this person was, we aren’t told.  It’s possible that he was one of the Pharisees & lawyers in attendance, but Luke never says that those were the only other people invited to the dinner that day.  It could have been a local townsperson or a layman – we simply don’t know.  The possibility that it might have been a Pharisee or a lawyer is intriguing, considering the context.  Luke has shown increasing conflict between Jesus & the Pharisees, and it had come to light once more at this very dinner.  Their treatment of the man with dropsy demonstrated the fact that they were not humble, and that they had not invited people like the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind for the purpose of showing them compassion.  Thus the future blessing promised by God was not for the current people in the room!  Yet all of that was lost on this one man.  Apparently he believed he would be included in the future resurrection of the just.  He believed that he would be in the kingdom.  Even with all of the warnings that Jesus gave to the Pharisees, they still believed themselves assured of eternity, never once questioning their inclusion in the kingdom.  Jesus gave them all kinds of reason to question themselves, and they never did.
    • As Christians, we are called to examine ourselves to see if we are truly saved.  2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.”  Take the test: do you believe in Jesus?  Is He in you, i.e., in your life as your Lord & King?  If so, praise God!  If you pass the test, then you have assurance of life.  A born-again Christian (someone who trusts Jesus alone for eternal life, believing Him to be God who died for our sins at the cross and rose from the grave) has every reason to be assured of eternal life.  The apostle John wrote one of his letters to local Christians specifically that they might know that they had eternal life. (1 Jn 5:13)  A believing Christian as solid assurance of his/her salvation!  That said, there are many people who claim assurance that shouldn’t. Their faith isn’t in Jesus; it’s in a prayer they repeated when they were a kid.  Their faith isn’t in Jesus; it’s in a baptism they received as a baby.  Or their faith is in their church membership – their tithing record – their (false) belief that God would never allow anyone to go to hell, etc.  People like this might claim assurance, but God hasn’t promised them any.  Assurance is only promised to people who have current, abiding faith in Jesus.
    • Do you believe Jesus?  Are you clinging to Him for forgiveness & eternity?  Good!  Be assured of your salvation & eternal life, knowing that God will never let you go.  But if Jesus is an afterthought to you – if He has no place in your life, much as your God & king – then you have every reason to question your eternity.  And you should!  That questioning & examination may be the very thing that leads you to eternal life!
  • The man at the table didn’t question his faith, but apparently Jesus did.  That’s what led Jesus to respond with the following parable.  What the man said about the future kingdom was correct: the people who “eat bread” there (those who participated in the kingdom) would indeed be “blessed”!  They would be happy beyond measure!  But they needed to be there in the first place.  That’s something that needs to be made certain today, while we have the chance.
  • A supper prepared (16-17)

16 Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, 17 and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’

  • This sets up the entire event.  It would have sounded familiar to the people in the room at the time, for this was exactly what they were currently experiencing.  Someone had given a “great supper and invited many”…and they were all at the table!  They had each responded, and come.  That’s how they were all able to listen to Jesus at the moment.  So Jesus takes this very relatable concept and speaks of another supper – the best supper: the supper in the kingdom of God.  Luke doesn’t record Jesus coming right out and describing it that way, but considering the context that Jesus spoke this in response to the man’s exclamation, there’s little doubt that the kingdom of God was in view.  That was Jesus’ intent, and that’s how everyone else in the room would have interpreted it.
  • So a supper was prepared, people had been previously invited, and things were ready.  What was left to be done?  All anyone needed to do was show up.  Ancient feasts were little different than our own dinner parties today, in this regard.  If you invite people over for barbecue, you would have sent out invitations in advance, cooked all day (and likely all the previous night), and then expect people to show up at the invited time.  Today, we say “Dinner at 6,” but in ancient times, messengers were sent out to let people know when the time was ready.  Those invited would have known the day, if not the exact hour.  The point?  They should have been ready.  There was nothing unusual about the feast or the invitation – everything was proceeding exactly according to custom.
  • That’s when everything went wrong.  Vs. 18…
  • Excuses of the invited (18-20)

18 But they all with one accord began to make excuses. …

  • How many “began to make excuses”?  “All.”  Keep in mind that all of them would have originally accepted the invitation to come.  Their RSVP would have been yes.  The servant of the master was going to the people who had previously committed to come to the feast, and it was only now that they refused.  And it was a 100% refusal rate!  This would have been incredibly insulting.
  • Be careful not to read the word “excuse” with a modern American context.  Today, we sometimes distinguish between “reasons” and “excuses.”  If someone misses work or school, we look for a good reason why they didn’t show; not a bunch of flimsy excuses.  We look for “I was in the hospital with a kidney stone,” vs. “The dog ate my homework.”  That’s not the idea here.  The word for “make excuses” is a verb that simply means “to ask to be released from an obligation.” (NIDNTT)  The word used in the parable has nothing to do with value/importance of the excuse; it refers to the request itself.  So when Jesus says that the people made excuses, He’s simply saying that they asked to decline the invitation, no matter what their reasoning was.  These people had previously said yes, but now they say no.
  • That being said, none of the reasons are good…

… The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ 20 Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’

  • Excuse #1: the lazy landowner.  What kind of person buys a piece of property without seeing it first?  As a church, we recently purchased land, and you bet we looked really hard at that real estate before signing papers!  Yet this man didn’t.  He waited until after the transaction was done before he went to go walk the property.  And of course, it’s not as if this was even urgent.  If it waited this long, surely it could wait until the next day.  He may have been polite in his request to be excused, but it was a terrible reason not to come.
  • Excuse #2: the foolish farmer.  This guy was little different than the first.  Who would purchase livestock without first examining them?  Especially when speaking about this many!  A “yoke” would pair two animals together for the purpose of plowing, so this was a purchase of ten oxen.  That speaks of the wealth of this man.  Money can’t buy everything, including manners, and this person also refused to come.
  • Excuse #3: the rude groom.  The last example didn’t use the courtesies of the first two, but at least he’s a bit more honest.  He just doesn’t want to come, so he doesn’t.  Culturally speaking, a newlywed would have been excused from warfare, but not from social events.  Besides, the whole community would have recently celebrated the wedding of this man, and no doubt his bride would have been welcome (and even expected) at this new feast.
  • The parable only includes three refusals, but this sampling was enough to typify the rest.  All had refused to come to the dinner (that they had previously accepted!), and none of the excuses had any validity to them whatsoever.  There was no emergency – no urgency.  There was just a lack of grace, and an insulting indifference to the host who had made these preparations.  It’s no wonder he responds the way he does…
  • Response of the Master (21-24)

21 So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’

  • Was the master right to be angry?  You bet!  He had been profoundly insulted by his so-called friends & neighbors.  If he had been a king (as was the case in a similar parable spoken by Jesus in Mt 22), he would have been furious!  In that particular parable, the people who refused to come actually seized the king’s servants & killed them, and the king responded with the full wrath of his army. (Mt 22:7)  In the current parable, this seemed to be wealthy homeowner, but no different from the rest of the people currently in the house of the Pharisee ruler.  But it was insulting, nonetheless.  The master of the house was angry, and had every right to be.
  • So what did he do?  Did he throw away the food he originally prepared for his friends & neighbors?  Of course not!  He invited others to come.  Who did he invite?  The same list of people Jesus said to invite in vs. 13: “the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind.”  All the ones who originally had not received an invitation – the ones whom the rest of society forgot – those were the ones included by the master.  Those would now be his honored guests for the banquet.
  • And they weren’t all…

22 And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ 23 Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.

  • Apparently the master had quite a large home!  The meal was huge, with no lack of food.  There was plenty of provision for all, and even when the servant gathered up all of the poor, etc., there was still room.  So what did the master do?  He invited even more.  This time, the invitation was given to complete strangers.  If the people who knew the homeowner wouldn’t come, then the invitation would be given to those who didn’t know him at all.
    • Without question, this parallels the gospel going out to the Gentiles.  Jesus was first sent to the Jews, being Himself a Jew.  He is the Son of David, the Hebrew Messiah, the fulfillment of all of the promises made to Abraham, Moses, and more.  All the original apostles were Jewish, and the church began in Jerusalem among the Jews.  Yet it didn’t stay there.  Why?  Because by & large the Jews rejected Jesus as Messiah, and they rejected those who came to believe in Him as the Messiah.  Thus the gospel proceeded out to the rest of the world, and came to people just like us.  We are the strangers in “the highways and hedges,” blessed to hear the good news of the Lord Jesus.  We have been invited to the wedding feast in the kingdom of God, and praise God for it!
    • Jesus knew the Jews would reject Him – that was foretold long ago in the Scriptures.  But thankfully, the Scriptures also speak of a day when the Hebrews finally respond to the invitation of God, and come to faith in Jesus as Messiah.  There will come a day when all Israel will be saved. (Rom 11:26)
  • How were the strangers on the highways and hedges to be brought?  The servant was told to “compel them to come in.”  The word translated “compel” can be misunderstood, either from it being too forceful, or too light-handed.  NKJV, ESV, NASB all render it “compel;” NIV, HCSB translate it as “make them.”  The NET & NLT renders it “urge,” which seems to fit this particular context far better.  One dictionary says of this word, that it means “to cause or compel someone in all the varying degrees from friendly pressure to forceful compulsion.” (TDNT)  IOW, it ranges from “please” to the point of a sword.  Context is absolutely key.  The context here is one of persuasion. (1) In this parable, the host is not a king, but a homeowner.  He doesn’t have the authority to send armies out with weapons for forced compulsion. (2) If the homeowner was prone to use force, he would have forced the original invited guests.  There was no reason to force strangers into his home, if he didn’t want to use force on his neighbors.  Thus, when the servant was told to “compel” the strangers, it meant that he was to go out & strongly urge & persuade people to come.
    • One theological aspect of this is that it demonstrates the manner in which the gospel goes forth.  God does not force anyone to become a Christian.  Not a single person will be in heaven who does not want to be there.  The invitation has gone out to the entire world, but if someone chooses to reject it, God has given them the freedom to do so.  With due respect to Calvinist theologians, the doctrine of Irresistable Grace is not easily defended, partly based on teaching such as this.  People can and do resist and reject the gospel of Jesus Christ and the grace of God.
    • That being said, it’s foolish to do so!  The gift offered by Jesus is so amazing & is priceless in its worth!  To be completely forgiven of every sin – to be given a new heart & new nature – to be set free from sin – to live in the power of God the Holy Spirit – to have the very person and presence of God within you – to have the guarantee of eternal life – to share in the everlasting inheritance of Christ Jesus, being made a child of the Living God – these things are wonderful!  There is nothing better that can be freely offered to anyone anywhere on the planet!  This is something that not only changes your life today, but changes your life for the next 10,000 years (and more!).  This is not something to refuse or to dismiss; this is something to gratefully receive & embrace.  So embrace it!
  • Embrace it while you have the opportunity, for the opportunity doesn’t last forever, as the men in the parable found out…

24 For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’ ”

  • How many had rejected the homeowner?  All.  How many would be forever refused by the homeowner?  All.  “None of those men” would eat the meal that had been originally prepared for them.  They had their opportunity, and they lost it.
  • Question: Does the opportunity to receive the gospel ever really pass us by?  It can.  Thankfully, anyone who still draws breath and has a beating heart still has the opportunity to be saved.  As the thief on the cross next to Jesus demonstrates, it is still possible for someone to have the assurance of eternal life even mere moments before death.  But, it takes ears that are willing to hear, and a heart ready to receive the truth.  And that’s something that isn’t guaranteed.  Hearts can easily grow hard to the invitation of God.  Ancient Pharaoh of Egypt had multiple face-to-face conversations with the premier prophet of the Hebrews, and saw with his own eyes the tangible manifestations of the power of Almighty God, and he still hardened his heart.  Even the Hebrew nation, newly freed from Egyptian slavery by incredible visible miracles, and was personally cared for by God in the wilderness with supernatural miracles taking place literally every morning – they still hardened their hearts and refused to walk in the grace of God, answering His invitation.  So yes, it’s possible for our opportunities to pass us by.  Just because we hear the gospel today and have our hearts soft to God’s invitation does not mean that it will be that way tomorrow, or next month, or next year, etc. You aren’t guaranteed tomorrow; you only have today & this moment.  What work is God doing in your heart right now?  This is your opportunity to respond.  2 Corinthians 6:2b, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”  This is the day.  If you know that God the Holy Spirit is calling you to Himself, today is the day you need to respond. 
  • What about for those who have already received Jesus as Lord & Savior?  What about those who are already assured of eating at the banquet table in the kingdom of God – is there anything here for us?  Absolutely!  Are you taking advantage of the opportunities you have with God right now, today?  We’ve been invited to know our Creator God, and we’ve been given the free opportunity to do so on a daily basis.  Do you do it?  When was the last time you prayed, other than a mealtime or church service?  When was the last time you read your Bible other than a Sunday morning?  Have you even read your Bible all the way through?  It’s God’s very word, given to us so that we would know Him better.  You hold an opportunity to know God in your hand…are you using it?  Or, put it in terms of service.  If you truly want to know the power of the Holy Spirit in your life, start serving God in some way.  Share the gospel, teach a class, break a sweat in physical service.  Those are opportunities God gives us to know Him…and those are all opportunities that easily pass us by.

Extra: How are we to compel?
Before we close, let’s take a few moments to look at the servant’s call to compel the people on the highways and in the hedges.  Out of the many applications that come out of this parable to born-again Christians, this one is probably the most obvious.  After all, we are the servants of King Jesus, and He has given us a command much like the homeowner gave to his servant.  In fact, our command has a name: the Great Commission.  Matthew 28:19–20, “(19) Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Jesus, being raised from the dead, was given all authority in heaven & on earth, and this is what He commanded His disciples (and thus, all His future disciples) to do.  As disciples, we are to make disciples.  We are to reproduce.  How do we do it?  We are to go, to baptize, and to teach.  Jesus presumes the going, though we are not to neglect it under the assumption that someone else will do it.  The teaching is what happens in times like these, when we’ve gathered together as a body to learn what God says in His word – it takes place in small groups – it takes place during one-on-one discipleship, etc.  The baptism takes place upon conversion, as people identify with Jesus in their newfound faith in Him.  But it’s what leads up to that conversion that is a challenge for many Christians: sharing the gospel.  This is the “compelling” part – this is the part where we go out to persuade others of the good news of Jesus Christ.

How do we compel others with the gospel?  For many Christians, we treat it the same way as the “going” – simply assuming that someone else will do it.  Yes, we may be saved & we believe in Jesus, but we don’t think we’re actually qualified to share Jesus with anyone else, so we just leave it to someone else to do.  Guess what?  If you’re born-again, you’re qualified.  If you’re saved, you’re that “someone else.”  You’re even already equipped, though perhaps you didn’t know it.  Think about it: how were you saved?  That’s your testimony.  Simply share that.  Paul’s testimony is recorded three times in the book of Acts: once as a narration, and twice in the process of Paul sharing his faith.  Apparently it was something he consistently returned to when he taught people about Christ.  We can do the same.  Think on how you came to faith.  There are three aspects: (1) Who you were before you met Jesus, (2) How you met Jesus, and (3) Who you became after you met Jesus.  It doesn’t need to be long & complicated – it certainly doesn’t need to glorify the past, building you up to be a “big” sinner.  It can be simple & to the point.  For example:

  • Before I met Christ, I didn’t have any real belief in God at all.  I didn’t care who He was or if He existed; I just wanted to live my own life.  I was apathetic to the whole thing.
  • One day I was unexpectedly confronted with the gospel, and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was all real.  I knew that Jesus is alive, that He is God, and that I needed to surrender my life to Him.  I went from not caring, to caring deeply in the blink of an eye, and I desperately wanted to be saved.
  • I surrendered my life to the Lord, was forgiven of my sins, and God called me that night to the ministry.  I haven’t walked perfectly with the Lord, but I’ve always had the assurance that He is with me, and that I will be with Him in eternity. He has given me my purpose, my family, and my future promise.
  • Would you like to know how you can have that too? 

At that point, just follow it up with the gospel.  The outline provided by Evangelism Explosion is fairly simple to remember:

  • Heaven is a free gift.  It cannot be earned or deserved.
  • Man is a sinner.  He cannot save himself.
  • God is merciful & loving.  God is just & righteous.
  • Jesus is both God & Man.  He died on the cross & rose from the grave to pay the penalty for our sin & to purchase us a place in heaven.
  • Faith is needed to be saved.  (a) Not temporary faith or head-knowledge.  (2) Saving faith: trusting in Jesus alone for eternal life.

What happens next?  Give them the opportunity to respond.  Keep in mind we are supposed to persuade & compel; not sell.  You can’t make the decision for someone else to respond to the gospel, nor can we push it on someone who doesn’t want it.  It’s not your job to bring someone else to faith; we are only witnesses of Jesus, giving people the opportunity to hear of Him & know Him.

Conclusion:
This same opportunity was given to the people attending that supper with Jesus.  The people in the room were convinced that they were already bound for the kingdom of God, though they shouldn’t have been.  There was much reason for them to question their assumptions, and to examine their own relationship with God.  But it wasn’t too late…at least not for all of them.  They had all been invited to the kingdom, and many of them were refusing to come.  Soon they would miss out on their last opportunity, and it would be too late.  Whatever excuses they made, they were insufficient, and they would suffer the consequences in eternity.

But it wasn’t too late for everyone.  There was still time to respond, but they needed to do it while they still had the chance.

So do we.  We still have the opportunity to respond, so we need to do it!  For those of us who know that we are born-again Christians – for those of us who have examined our faith and have the steadfast assurance that we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ – we have two things before us.

  • We need to take advantage of every opportunity we have to walk with our Lord & get to know Him better.  We need to stop putting off until tomorrow that which we can do today.  Today, you can pray.  Today, you can worship.  Today, you can read your Bible.  Today, you can share your faith – serve – pray with someone – help out the least & the forgotten – be the hands & feet of Jesus.  All of that you can do as God gives you the opportunity, so do it.  Don’t wait until the end of your life & say “I wish I would have ____.”  Serve the Lord now, while you have the chance.
  • Most pressing to the parable, go out with the gospel.  We are the ones to urge others to put their faith in Jesus.  We have been entrusted with the greatest news in the history of the world, and other people won’t know unless we tell them.  For as many churches that exist in Tyler, the vast majority of the people living here won’t walk through the doors.  For all the radio ministry that broadcasts over the airwaves, the vast majority of non-Christians won’t tune in at the right time.  We (the church) are the most effective evangelism force for the Lord Jesus, and yet we (by & large) aren’t doing it.  It’s estimated that less than 2% of Christians ever share their faith.  Let’s start bumping up that number!

Don’t Hide; Just Seek

Posted: June 29, 2017 in Amos

Amos 5-6, “Don’t Hide; Just Seek”

One of my daughter’s favorite games when she was little was “Hide & Seek.”  We don’t have a large house, so I was always amazed at how well she would find little crevices in which to hide.  She became great at camouflaging herself behind chairs, and going all kinds of places where we might look right past her.

What is fun & games among little children is not so great between us and God.  Our Heavenly Father loves us, and wants us to enjoy Him – but He doesn’t want us hiding from Him.  It’s when we try to hide from God that we inevitably get into trouble.  That’s when we engage in sin, fall to temptation, and generally start walking away from Him.

We “try” to hide from God, but it is impossible to hide from Him in reality.  God is ever-present, all-knowing, and all-powerful.  How can we hide from a God who is everywhere at all times?  How can we shield our actions from a God who sees everything?  We can delude ourselves into thinking He neither knows nor sees, but the truth is quite different.  He does know, so there’s no point in trying to hide from Him.

What’s worse than trying to hide ourselves from God is simply giving up on Him – not even caring any longer that He sees.  That’s when we’ve moved from conscious, yet concealed sin, to complacency.  That’s when someone has given up on God, and perhaps given up on faith entirely.  That’s a place of danger…and that’s a place where God will confront us.

That’s what was going on with Israel, as Amos continued his prophecies against the nation.  They had entered that place of complacency, no longer bothering to hide their sins from God, and giving only lip service to Him at occasional points along the way. When they did think of God, they believed God didn’t see them as they were – but they were wrong.  God saw all their sins, even the ones they had long forgotten about, and the time had now come for judgment.  The nation still had the opportunity to seek the Lord in repentance, though God already knew what their response would be.  He freely offered them grace, even as He knew they would turn away.

God freely offers us grace…don’t turn away!  Don’t try to hide your sins from God.  Instead, seek Him, and His righteousness.  Seek Christ, and live!

Amos 5

  • The imminent fall of Israel (5:1-3)

1 Hear this word which I take up against you, a lamentation, O house of Israel: 2 The virgin of Israel has fallen; She will rise no more. She lies forsaken on her land; There is no one to raise her up.

  • What follows is not going to be good.  This is a word of “lamentation,” – a terrible word of mourning concerning “the virgin of Israel.”  God & Amos were grieved over what was going to happen to the nation.  God loved Israel as a betrothed – He had wonderful plans for her.  Yet for a time, things would be different.  His beloved would be brutalized.  She had endangered herself through her sin, and the consequences would not be pretty.
  • Yet would Israel truly be forsaken?  Abandoned?  Temporarily, yes.  God’s promises will never be taken away, but that doesn’t mean He would never allow Israel to experience the consequences of their actions.  God would remove His hand of protection from them, and it would truly seem as if God had abandoned them.
    • Sometimes it may seem as if God has abandoned us.  He hasn’t…not if we’re in Christ, He hasn’t.  He will never leave us nor forsake us.  That doesn’t mean He will give us free reign to sin as much as we want without consequence, and He might temporarily remove His hand of protection from us.  When that happens, the key is not to despair, but to repent.

3 For thus says the Lord GOD: “The city that goes out by a thousand Shall have a hundred left, And that which goes out by a hundred Shall have ten left to the house of Israel.”

  • Sad description of the destruction that would come to the land.  The cities and towns would be decimated, with massive amounts of people dying.
  • Again, this is a temporary reversal of God’s covenant promise.  Genesis 15:4–5, "(4) And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” (5) Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”"  That’s what they could have had.  Instead, only a remnant would remain. 
    • Yet, in Christ the promise remains!  We are the spiritual descendant of Abraham in Christ.  More than that, the physical nation remains, and one day they will themselves come to faith.  We pray for that day, as we pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
  • Invitation: Seek God & live! (5:4-15)

4 For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: “Seek Me and live; 5 But do not seek Bethel, Nor enter Gilgal, Nor pass over to Beersheba; For Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, And Bethel shall come to nothing.

  • Destruction was coming, but there was still a chance for them to live.  What did they need to do?  Seek God!  They needed to turn to Him in repentance – they needed to put their full trust in the Lord, surrendering their whole lives to the Lord.
  • They had sought idols.  That was what was at Bethel & Gilgal & Beersheba. But that was the opposite of what they should have done.  Seek God; not idols!  Idols are empty & vain.  Idols offer nothing.
    • That’s true of false ideas just as much as it is of statues.  Idols come in all shapes & forms, sometimes only existing in our mind as false expressions and ideas of God.  It doesn’t matter how much we might believe our ideas concerning God to be true, if they contradict the Scripture, then they’re false & vain, period.  Instead of seeking the false, we need to seek the truth.

6 Seek the LORD and live, Lest He break out like fire in the house of Joseph, And devour it, With no one to quench it in Bethel— 7 You who turn justice to wormwood, And lay righteousness to rest in the earth!”

  • Simple & clear choice: live or die.  Seek the Lord, live.  Turn away, be consumed.  For centuries, Israel had turned away, and they were about to be devoured.  God’s justice is unquenchable.  He is an all-consuming fire.  People cannot engage in consistent rebellion against God and not experience the consequences that come from it.
    • But that’s not what God desires for us!  He wants us to seek Him – He wants us to know Him in true surrender & faith.  What is it you seek?  It can’t be the stuff you think God might provide – it can’t be the good feelings you think God might give – it needs to be Lord Himself.  When we seek Him first, thirsting after Jesus as a parched man seeks after water – that’s the kind of seeking God desires & honors.  Seek Him & live!  Experience the abundant spiritual life that Jesus offers…
  • Notice the sin in vs. 7.  Israel’s idolatry has been mentioned several times, but their sin was more than false worship.  It was also injustice & iniquity.  They perverted justice & treated righteousness as garbage – something to be cast away.
    • God cares about our actions.  Sin is of the heart, but it is also of the hands.  How do we treat others?  How do we act in the face of injustice?  God sees these things, and He wants us to honor Him in our actions.

8 He made the Pleiades and Orion; He turns the shadow of death into morning And makes the day dark as night; He calls for the waters of the sea And pours them out on the face of the earth; The LORD is His name. 9 He rains ruin upon the strong, So that fury comes upon the fortress.

  • The idols at Bethel & Gilgal were empty, but the Lord God is not.  He is the all-powerful creator, sovereign over all the earth.  He governs the stars (the same stars that many idolaters worship) – He turns the earth on its axis going from night to day – He gives the rain & superintends the water cycle.  This is the LORD – this is the true God.  The LORD stands apart from the rest.  No idol compares to Him!
  • In addition to all those things, this same LORD is the judge.  He both sends the rain, and “rains ruin upon the strong.”  When it comes to all of the injustice & unrighteousness in vs. 7, all of that was seen by the Lord, and people would be called to account.  Every idle word spoken by men will be judged by the Lord – every word, thought, and deed.  The judgment of God is not something to take lightly!
    • On the contrary, it’s the very reason we cling so tightly to Jesus!  Were it not for Jesus, we would have no hope!
  • That’s the Lord God, but what about the people who are supposed to worship Him as His people?  They are far different! Vs. 10…

10 They hate the one who rebukes in the gate, And they abhor the one who speaks uprightly. 11 Therefore, because you tread down the poor And take grain taxes from him, Though you have built houses of hewn stone, Yet you shall not dwell in them; You have planted pleasant vineyards, But you shall not drink wine from them.

  • The people despised wisdom & righteousness.  If an elder spoke the righteousness of God in the city gate, that man was “abhorred” by the rest of Israel.  God’s wisdom, righteousness, and truth was rejected by His own people.
  • The people oppressed the poor, demanding taxes from people who had no money to give.  The God who is compassionate towards the poor had a people who oppressed them.
    • Keep in mind that when it comes to eternal things, we are all poor!  We have nothing to offer God apart from our sins.  If God wasn’t compassionate towards spiritually poor people, none of us would be saved!  We are absolutely dependent upon the compassion of God through Jesus!
  • Thus, the people would be punished.  God would take away their wealth & luxury.  God had given them their luxuries, and thus God would remove them.

12 For I know your manifold transgressions And your mighty sins: Afflicting the just and taking bribes; Diverting the poor from justice at the gate. 13 Therefore the prudent keep silent at that time, For it is an evil time.

  • God knew their sins, for they were many!  They oppressed the poor, giving preference to the rich as bribes were received & so-called “justice” was bought.  Those who were truly “just” were afflicted and pushed aside.  And the worst part was that nothing was said.  The “prudent [kept] silent” in the face of it.  The sins of Israel piled high, indeed!
    • God knew their sins, and God knows our sins, no doubt.  Our culture has little room to talk in regards to the sins of Israel.  Justice all-too-often goes to the highest bidder with the most expensive attorneys.  Those who are poor rarely have someone willing to speak on their behalf.  Examples of injustice abound.  God knows the manifold sins of our own culture, and of every individual within our culture (including us!).  Not a single sin of ours is hidden from His sight.  (And He still loves us!  Amazing!)
  • BTW – whether the prudent/wise believed it would do no good to speak up, or if they were intimidated into silence, or they just didn’t say anything at all, it was still lumped in with the other sins of Israel.  Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.
    • This is the reason the church speaks up regarding abortion, homosexual marriage, pornography, drug/alcohol addiction, oppression of the poor, injustice, etc.  Not that the church is supposed to be a political organization; it is not.  Our first and foremost responsibility is to preach the gospel and make disciples of all the nations. (Mt 28:20)  But in the process of engaging in that mission, we cannot help but be salt and light within the world.  How can we invite people to experience the love of God through Christ Jesus if we do not express His same love?  How can we tell people the truth of the gospel, if we ignore the truth of God’s morals?  Thus we speak up, and do so without apology.  We cannot & dare not keep silent.

14 Seek good and not evil, That you may live; So the LORD God of hosts will be with you, As you have spoken.

  • Notice the parallel with vss. 4 & 6.  To seek good is to seek God.  When we seek Him, we seek His character.  When we seek Him, we seek to be like Him.  As Christians, we follow in the footsteps of Christ.  Discipleship 101 (i.e. the Great Commission) is to obey all things that He has commanded us, which means we are to live rightly, seeking Jesus & His kingdom.  In that, comes life – abundant life!
  • And God wants us to live!  God wants to be with us.  Just as He wanted to be with Israel.  His desire was not to punish them, but to bless them.  He wanted them to live & to live in a right relationship with Him.  IOW, God wants more from us than right actions; He wants a right heart…and that only comes through ongoing relationship with Him.
  • So how to do it?  How does Amos tell Israel to seek God & His good?  Vs. 15…

15 Hate evil, love good; Establish justice in the gate. It may be that the LORD God of hosts Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

  • Act rightly.  Act according to repentance.  All the things that went wrong “in the gate,” is to be reversed.  Instead of despising justice & wisdom & righteousness, seek to uphold those things.  Walk according to God’s truth, as He has revealed through His Scriptures.  For Israel, it was to obey the covenant & listen to the prophets.  For us, it’s still to obey the Scriptures, and to listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
  • Seek God for His grace.  Israel was to hold out hope that they might experience grace & favor from the Lord.  The hope of Israel is the promise to us, when (and if) we come through Jesus Christ.  Those who humble themselves unto Jesus do experience the grace of God!

So this was the invitation.  It would be ignored.

  • Warning: God’s arrival (5:16-27)

16 Therefore the LORD God of hosts, the Lord, says this: “There shall be wailing in all streets, And they shall say in all the highways, ‘Alas! Alas!’ They shall call the farmer to mourning, And skillful lamenters to wailing. 17 In all vineyards there shall be wailing, For I will pass through you,” Says the LORD.

  • Why would there be wailing?  Because of the arrival of God.  For God to “pass through” Israel was for God to use Passover terminology.  Only this time, it wouldn’t be a good thing.  It would not be an act of deliverance, but of destruction.  This time, Israel would learn what it was like for Egypt, to be on the receiving end of God’s wrath.
  • Is it sobering & a bit scary?  Yes…and it ought to be.  Hebrews 10:31, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."  Fearsome thing to fall into the hands of God.

18 Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! For what good is the day of the LORD to you? It will be darkness, and not light. 19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion, And a bear met him! Or as though he went into the house, Leaned his hand on the wall, And a serpent bit him! 20 Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light? Is it not very dark, with no brightness in it?

  • Depending on how the book of Amos is dated, this is quite possibly the first chronological mention of “the day of the LORD.”  Normally, when we think of the Day of the Lord, we think of the end-times, when Jesus comes back at the Battle of Armageddon in His glorious return.  Yet for Amos, the context is different.  This is a reference to the day of God’s wrath specifically for the northern nation of Israel when the Assyrians come in conquest. … It would be brutal.
    • So will Jesus’ 2nd Coming!  For us, it will be glorious & wonderful, as we as born-again Christians will accompany Him.  For those upon the earth, it will be fearsome and terrifying.  Although we desire that Day, they will not.
  • Neither should anyone in ancient Israel desire the preview of the Day of the Lord.  Again, the idea of God passing through Israel was commonly associated with Passover, and it brought to mind salvation & deliverance.  But that wasn’t what Israel would experience on their next time.  There was nothing that was desirable about that day to the Israelites/Samaritans.  Those who believed it to be good had another thing coming.  The Day of the Lord is not good to those who remain in sin.
    • Many people are going to be surprised when they finally see their Maker face-to-face, and not in a good way.
    • The key is to be ready now.  And we can be!  That is the great news that Jesus provides!
  • So what to do about this?  Worship the Lord, right?  Wrong.  Vs. 21…

21 “I hate, I despise your feast days, And I do not savor your sacred assemblies. 22 Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. 23 Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.

  • All of this sounds like it ought to be great – it ought to be everything that would please the Lord.  Feast days, sacred assemblies, burnt offerings, songs, etc., are all things prescribed in the Scripture.  Yet God says that He hates these things.  He hates it so much that He states it twice!  These actions are not what the Lord desires from His people.  Why?  Vs. 24…

24 But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream.

  • This was God’s desire for His people, yet this was what was lacking from Israel.  All of the previous acts of “worship” were offered by people with unrepentant hearts.  Outwardly, they could walk through actions that resembled Biblical worship, but inwardly their hearts were corrupt.  They despised justice & righteousness.  Instead of these things flooding His people as a reflection of God’s own character among them, there was a drought of justice & righteousness.  God’s own people had not been transformed by God.  They had no fruit of His righteousness among them, and thus no evidence of true faith in God.  What good were sacrifices and feast days if their hearts were not yielded to the Lord as God? …
  • This is the way it had always been.  It wasn’t only the current generation of Israelites that had despised the Lord; it was their forefathers as well.  Vs. 25…

25 “Did you offer Me sacrifices and offerings In the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? 26 You also carried Sikkuth your king And Chiun, your idols, The star of your gods, Which you made for yourselves.

  • There’s a bit of exaggeration in vs. 25.  Yes, sacrifices and offerings were offered at various times through the 40 years in the wilderness, but Israel had always struggled in their faithfulness to God.  They always had idols in their midst, most famously seen at the base of Mt. Sinai when Moses was receiving the law directly from God Himself.  They hadn’t seen Moses for 40 days, so they built a golden calf to worship, claiming that it was the god who delivered them out of Egypt.  Apparently, the golden calf was not the Israelites’ only experience with idolatry.  False gods previously unmentioned in the Scriptures, such as Sikkuth and Chiun were carried by the Hebrews the entire time they were in the desert.  The Israelites may have thought these idols were hidden from the sight of God, but they weren’t.  God was fully aware of every bit of idolatry and unfaithfulness among them.
  • And yet He still loved them!  Think of it: not only did God not destroy Israel at Mt. Sinai after the incident with the golden calf, but God said nothing about these other idols until centuries after the fact.  And still, God dwelt among His people, provided food in the desert, gave them His word through His prophets, brought them into the Promised Land, blessed them through the judges and kings, bringing them all the way to this day.  At any point during the past, God had every right to wipe Israel from the face of the earth, yet He didn’t.  Why?  Because He loved them.  He had a plan for them.  He had made a promise to them to bring a Messiah through them.  God would be faithful to them, despite their faithlessness to Him.
    • That’s how God works with us!  Should we be the children of God?  Absolutely not!  He has every right to destroy us & wipe us from history.  He has zero reason to show us grace…and yet He does!  He knows every sin we ever committed against Him – He knows every sin we’ve yet to commit against Him – and He still loves us.  He still sent Jesus for us.  He still freely offered us salvation in Christ.  The love He has for us is amazing!
    • When you read the OT prophets & the judgments promised to Israel, always remember the NT fulfillment of these things: the cross.  Everything Israel experienced are things we deserve, but don’t.  Why?  Because Jesus took these things upon Himself.  Contextually here, how much does God love you & me?  He loves us in Christ despite our idolatry & unfaithfulness.  Those were things for which His Son died.  Those are things for which we have been forgiven.  Praise God!
    • Just be careful not to take the forgiveness of Christ for granted.  God will not remove His salvation from us, but that doesn’t mean He will not act in regards to our own individual sin.
  • As for Israel, they had sinned just as their forefathers had sinned, and just as God had always known they would sin.  He had given them chance after chance to change, and they never did.  Despite the repeated offers to seek God & to repent, they refused.  Thus God would act.  Vs. 27…

27 Therefore I will send you into captivity beyond Damascus,” Says the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts.

  • Thus, their captivity.  Because Israel refused to seek the Lord, God would send the Assyrians.  This was His judicial sentence against them.

Amos 6

  • The pride of Jacob (6:1-8)

1 Woe to you who are at ease in Zion, And trust in Mount Samaria, Notable persons in the chief nation, To whom the house of Israel comes! 2 Go over to Calneh and see; And from there go to Hamath the great; Then go down to Gath of the Philistines. Are you better than these kingdoms? Or is their territory greater than your territory?

  • Note: both Zion AND Samaria are indicted.  That’s a reference to both the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel.  No doubt the majority of the specific prophecy is directed towards the north, but that didn’t mean the south was innocent.  They had just as much reason to be at woe as did Samaria/Israel.  They just had a bit more time to repent.
  • What reason did they have for woe?  Judgment was coming, and Israel would be conquered…just like everyone else.  Israel’s past history with God did not make them better than the other nations of the world.  Just as the Gentiles had been conquered by the Assyrians, so would Israel.  Calneh & Gath were stronger cities than Samaria, and yet they had fallen.  Israel would prove to be no different. 
    • What had made the difference in the past?  God’s protection.  Without it, they had no hope.
    • What difference is between us and the rest of the world?  None, apart from Jesus Christ.  Without Him, His work, and His grace, we have no hope.  We are just as sinful, and just as deserving of God’s judgment.  Thus we cling to grace!  We hold fast to Jesus!

3 Woe to you who put far off the day of doom, Who cause the seat of violence to come near; 4 Who lie on beds of ivory, Stretch out on your couches, Eat lambs from the flock And calves from the midst of the stall; 5 Who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments, And invent for yourselves musical instruments like David;

  • The picture here is one of pride – laziness – an excess of self-confidence.  This what Israel had in the midst of impending judgment.  Amos wasn’t the first prophet sent by God with a warning to Israel; he was just the latest to be ignored by the people.  Despite warning after warning, the people lived in luxury as if it would last forever.
  • Jesus said a similar attitude would persist among the people of the world right before His 2nd Coming. Matthew 24:37–42, "(37) But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. (38) For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, (39) and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. (40) Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. (41) Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. (42) Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming."  (Not a rapture passage; a 2nd Coming passage!)  The idea is that people won’t be ready, despite the many warnings given them.
    • The key?  Pay attention while you have the chance!

6 Who drink wine from bowls, And anoint yourselves with the best ointments, But are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph. 7 Therefore they shall now go captive as the first of the captives, And those who recline at banquets shall be removed.

  • Once again, God knew the insincere hearts of His people.  The Israelites lived in luxury, but they were “not grieved for the affliction” of the northern tribes of people.  God had warned them, but Israel didn’t listen.  They believed the prosperity they experienced would never end.  They would be surprised!  Their luxury would soon be lost as the Assyrians came in and took the people captive.

8 The Lord GOD has sworn by Himself, The LORD God of hosts says: “I abhor the pride of Jacob, And hate his palaces; Therefore I will deliver up the city And all that is in it.”

  • Israel was proud, and God hated it!  He loathes self-pride and exaltation.  They had magnified themselves, and they made themselves a stench in the nostrils of God.
  • How much does God hate this sort of self-exalted pride?  Virtually every name that could be used of God is used in a solemn oath that He swears by His own soul.  The first part of vs. 8 could be literally rendered, “He has sworn, Lord YHWH in His soul.”  The deepest part of God hates pride.  Self-exaltation took down Satan.  The desire to raise up himself took down Adam.  The list of casualties is endless.  The proverbs say that “pride goes before destruction” for good reason! (Pro 16:18)
  • So Israel was proud to a dangerous extent.  What would be the result?  God promised to “deliver up the city and all that is in it.”  That deliverance over to destruction is described in the remainder of Chapter 6.
  • The affliction of Jacob (6:9-14)

9 Then it shall come to pass, that if ten men remain in one house, they shall die. 10 And when a relative of the dead, with one who will burn the bodies, picks up the bodies to take them out of the house, he will say to one inside the house, “Are there any more with you?” Then someone will say, “None.” And he will say, “Hold your tongue! For we dare not mention the name of the LORD.”

  • The picture is one of massive death.  So many people die that they finally recognize that it is the hand of the Lord that brought it.  Yet instead of seeking the Lord in repentance, they continue to turn away from Him.  They fear to even mention His name, believing that more destruction will come upon them.  And if they would continue to offer insincere unrepentant worship, then they had every reason to fear!  Yet, if they turned to God in true humility, they would have had reason to hope.  Sadly, that would not be the case.

11 For behold, the LORD gives a command: He will break the great house into bits, And the little house into pieces.

  • Destruction was sure to come.  Every bit of the land would experience it, with no household being exempt.  Just as when the angel of God passed through the land of Egypt & every home knew his presence, so would the northern kingdom experience complete ruin. 
  • Additionally, remember how the kingdom was described in 6:1, “the house of Israel.”  This house would be broken into bits, smashed to pieces.  It was a terrible prophecy of the very real destruction to come.

12 Do horses run on rocks? Does one plow there with oxen? Yet you have turned justice into gall, And the fruit of righteousness into wormwood, 13 You who rejoice over Lo Debar, Who say, “Have we not taken Karnaim for ourselves By our own strength?”

  • The answer to the first two questions is “no.”  Those are ridiculous thoughts, just as the actions of Israel were ridiculous & wrong.  Again, they despised justice & righteousness.  Again, they were proud, taking joy in their military victories.  Yet they would learn that everything they gained militarily could be taken away from them.  Vs. 14…

14 “But, behold, I will raise up a nation against you, O house of Israel,” Says the LORD God of hosts; “And they will afflict you from the entrance of Hamath To the Valley of the Arabah.”

  • For all the nations that Israel had defeated in the past, they would not be able to defeat Assyria.  The nation God would bring against them would “afflict” the entire land from the far north to the far south.  Total destruction was coming – all by the hand and will of God – all because they remained unrepentant against God.

Conclusion:
Don’t fight against the Lord – don’t try to hide your sins from Him.  Those things are fruitless.  God invites us to seek Him, so seek Him!

That was the consistent invitation from the Lord: seek Him, and live!  They had an open invitation – all they needed to do was humble themselves in repentance.  It was their stubborn pride & complacency that kept them from doing so.  They had stopped up their ears to the word of God, and it brought about their ruin.

Seek the Lord!  Find life when your hope is solely resting upon Jesus.  Find life when your relationship with God is unhindered by pride & insincerity.  Seek Him in truth, seek Him in practical obedience.  Seek Him, being filled with the Holy Spirit & that’s when we will experience the abundant life Jesus promised us.