Monday, October 31, 2011

The world streaming to Israel

Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. And the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind.
1 Kings 10:23-24

One of the blessings of the covenant was that God said the world would flock to Israel to hear from Him. Under the reign and fame of Solomon, that is exactly what occurred. The world sought audience with Solomon to hear wisdom and see the wealth of Israel. It was quite an unusual time in the history of Israel.

In many ways this period of time during the rule of Solomon is a picture of what God wanted His nation to always be. And it will find its true fulfillment in the millennial reign of Jesus. The mission of Israel in worship of Yahweh was to be a light to the Gentiles. And for most of their history they struggled to do so. Somehow, through the providence of God, things came together in such a way under Solomon that the nation got it right. And when they did, God blessed them and the world took notice of Israel and the God that they worshiped. Even the Arabs came to learn from Solomon, under the leadership of the Arabian queen of Sheba.

So in this short passage we have the vision of Israel's central position as the people of Yahweh meant to attract the world to the worship of the one true God. And in this passage we see unprecedented blessing coming to Israel as they worshiped God, willing to open their lives for the world to come and see. This is an outstanding, clear proof that God has always loved the world.

Friday, October 28, 2011

one person's obedience impacts others

And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my rules, then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, 'You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.'
1 Kings 9:4-5

This is a repetition of the Davidic covenant to Solomon, but this time God gives Solomon certain consequences to consider if he or his descendants disregard the Law of God. God makes it clear that the king is not exempt from the requirements of the covenants God has made with the nation. The king stands as the first representative to obey and follow the Law, worshiping God in obedience to His commands.

God does not exempt anyone from obedience to Him. Solomon is told this early in his reign. Even though he has accomplished so much in worship of the Lord, God knew his heart. There were already little cracks in his character coming through. The extraordinary wealth he had achieved left him pursing more... to the point that the chapter goes at length to show this effort. He had also put money above relationship with an important ally of Israel. His construction of an elaborate palace showed his tendency toward materialism. His marriage to the daughter of Pharaoh was starting to open him up to spiritual compromise.

So God is graciously reminding Solomon to stay true to Him. The kingdom would count on it. The risks were high in obeying God. In some ways they always are. It affects more than just any one person's choice.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

a serious worship leader

"Blessed be the LORD who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant."
1 Kings 8:56

Any worship leader worth anything ought to take his cues from the celebration of praise that Solomon led at the dedication of the first temple. All of 1 Kings 8 maps out an impressive order of worship. And Solomon leads it masterfully. It all begins with the processional that brought the ark of the covenant out of the old tabernacle and into the new temple. The king, along with all the elders in Israel, led the line of people who followed the ark to the temple. During this procession, numerous sacrifices were made. And God's glory came and overflowed the temple after the ark was set in the holy of holies (1 Kings 8:10-11).

Then Solomon sets a short history of the worship of Yahweh in place. He blesses God, he blesses the nation, he recounts the covenant that the Lord made with his father, David. And in this short opening praise, the focus is clearly on the faithfulness of God.

As Solomon stands in the courtyard before the altar of the Lord, he leads the nation in a magnificent and instructive prayer. He focuses on the faithfulness of God and remarkably, most of the prayer is a plea for God to remain faithful even though Israel does not remain faithful. Solomon knows God can't be limited to one spot in the temple. The temple did not contain all of God within it (1 Kings 8:27). But it was a place where Israel could focus on God.

Then Solomon spends the bulk of his prayer acknowledging the need that sinners have for the justice and mercy of God. God would have to settle lies from the truth in human relationships (1 Kings 8:31-32). God would grant renewal after defeated Israel repented of sin (1 Kings 8:33-34). God would respond to sin-induced catastrophe (i Kings 8:35-36) and forgive a repentant nation. The temple would be a place where Israel acknowledged sin. God would hear their repentance in heaven and act (1 Kings 8:37-40). This cycle of forgiveness would affect gentiles within the borders of Israel (1 Kings 8:41-45).

The complete cycle of confession and forgiveness was the focus of all that was done in worship at the temple (1 Kings 8:46-53). Then Solomon ended with a benediction that reinforced this (1 Kings 8:54-61). Lest anyone doubt his conviction, a massive kingly gift of sacrifices (1 Kings 8:62-66) was begun that must have taken months, if not years to complete. Solomon was serious in what he said, prayed, and did in worship of God.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

New beginnings and hard work

Thus all the work that King Solomon did on the house of the LORD was finished. And Solomon brought in the things that David his father had dedicated, the silver, the gold, and the vessels, and stored them in the treasuries of the house of the LORD.
1 Kings 7:51

This was the moment that became the spiritual high point of Solomon's reign in Jerusalem. The temple of the Lord is complete, furnished, and temple worship is about to begin. It has been a project Solomon has work towards for a long time. It was a passion that his father, David, also had. And now the work of two generations has come to a completion.

With every completion is also a new beginning. In the case of the temple project, the new beginning was a house of worship for the Lord in Jerusalem. The past had been symbolized in a tent of worship, testament to Israel's wilderness past. Now, with the temple complete, a certain established commitment to the worship of God and obedience to His Law is confirmed. This is the new beginning. The temple period of Israel's history begins.

With each new beginning come new challenges. The large temple complex with Solomon's palace adjacent to it would require constant attention. God was worshiped day and night and levitical duties kept priests and Levites at the temple complex around the clock. It said a lot that the king built his own house so close to God's temple. It meant that Solomon was a close worshiper. Yet, with that came heightened security and new concerns. All the treasures of Israel's throne were stored at the palace and in the temple vaults. This was like Fort Knox with an altar.

The administrative challenges of such a set up would require the kind of wisdom and manpower that Solomon could provide. Between the priests, Levities, soldiers, and king's household, a lot of coordination had to take place behind the scenes. And the effort was to promote Israel's big identity as a nation: the worship of Yahweh in His temple. With new beginnings come a balance of joy, hard work, worship, planning, and commitment -- all for the glory of God.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Temple Project

And in the eleventh year, in the month of Bul, which is the eighth month, the house was finished in all its parts, and according to all its specifications. He was seven years in building it.
1 Kings 6:38

For seven years the wealth of a nation
and the labor of thousands
poured forth in worship.
Stone, mortar, planks of cedar
were shaped into a dwelling
for the glory of God.

And the wisest king directed the situation
as the wood cut, stone set by hands
were his stewardship.
Walls, ceilings, floors, center altar
were placed into the building
for the glory of God.

After seven years an achieved vision
created a place where crowds countless
would worship the Lord.
Offerings, sacrifice, oblations, and vows
all given meaning at this place
for the glory of God.

And the achievement of a chosen nation
was to point to a visible standing reference
that showed the Lord.
With each gift, each slain beast, worship now
was the central focus to showcase
the glory of God.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Building a temple for God with my life

Solomon takes on the dream of his father, David. He will build the magnificent temple where the God of Israel will be worshiped in Jerusalem. He realizes that he is doing so at the prophetic word of God and in the providential timing of God. Solomon has been set upon the throne and unprecedented peace and prosperity have come to Israel just for this project. God is leading him in one of the defining tasks of his reign: the original temple in Jerusalem.

This was Solomon's great act of worship and obedience. He was a flawed leader, a king whose brilliant genius was marred by his moral ambiguity and sensual appetites. But at least at this stage of his rule, his genius was met with equal measures of obedience and love for the Lord. He used every political and persuasive power at his disposal in pursuit of the temple construction.

I draw a very simple application. God is worthy of my investment of time and resources in making His name great in my life. I don't have the wealth or the clout of Solomon to use, but I do have all that God HAS given me. It is enough to magnify God greatly. Am I seriously doing this? Am I building a temple for the worship of God in that way that I am living my life? God did not ask me to be Solomon. But He is still the great God He has always been and I am compelled to make that truth known so that others can rejoice and worship the Lord with me.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The attraction of wisdom

And people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom.
1 Kings 4:34

When God blessed Solomon, He blessed all of Israel and the world. Ultimately the reign of Solomon would have affect to the gentiles far beyond the borders of Israel. The nation of Israel was attractive to the world. And the main attraction was the wisdom generously granted to Solomon by God.

In no other time in Israel's history had such unprecedented renown come to the nation. The world flocked to Jerusalem to hear what Solomon had to say. Such was the fame of the kingdom. It is a picture of what Israel's future yet will be. And it was a fulfillment of all that God had promised Israel could be if they kept His Law. And all of this was centered around the wisdom of God.

Solomon's wisdom was listened to then, and much of it is available to us today. The Book of Proverbs consists of the collected sayings of King Solomon (along with a few other wise guys in Israel) and represents a wealth of spiritual, moral, and practical wisdom that is as useful today as when they sayings were first assembled together. Ecclesiastes exists as a source of philosophical discovery and worldview wisdom that hits all the major necessary components of any organized philosophical construction. And it too is as timely as ever. The Song of Solomon extols the beauty and wisdom of marital love, providing ancient insight into sexuality that has not changed in thousands of years. Solomon's wisdom still speaks, and through the Bible the world can still flock to hear it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

humility --> worship --> wisdom --> blessing

Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?
1 Kings 3:9

This was Solomon's moment of really extraordinary spiritual perception. God came to him very early in the initial days of his kingship after Solomon had spent a day celebrating, worshipping, and sacrificing to God. The Lord offered to Solomon anything that he asked of Him. But lest we think that God was offering to be Solomon's personal genie in the lamp, remember, God was testing the character of the young king. Solomon pleased the Lord greatly with his request.

The young king asked God to supply him with the kind of wise mind that would be beyond his years. He wanted to understand just how to govern God's people. Notice that in his request, Solomon never asks to exalt himself or even lays claim to being "over" the nation. Israel is God's people and Solomon mentions that twice in his request. Solomon needs wisdom from God in order to effectively govern God's great people. It was this controlling humility that opened a window into Solomon's heart. God was very pleased with what He saw there. In fact, the reason God answered this request was that it came out of worship and not self-motivation.

Solomon's primary concern was over the moral leadership of the nation. He wanted understanding so that he could discern between good and evil. That was an insight few leaders think of today. It is all about profit or success or growth at all costs. Seldom does leadership make its mark by the outstanding example of moral uprightness. That is sad, really. God would bless Solomon, even in later days of dubious morality, because in these beginning days he was consumed with really doing what pleased God as Israel's king.

So there is a lot to understand here. Foremost is that humility in worship helps us see God as He is and ourselves as we are. It was humble worship that led Solomon to ask for the right thing that pleased God. That worship led to wisdom. And God went over and above Solomon's original request. Because he had asked so well for what was so right, God also blessed him with great success and wealth. So humility led to worship. Worship led to wisdom. Wisdom led to blessing. That is a chain of events worth noting and hoping for in my own life.

- Posted on an original iPad.
prepare your minds for action...
1 Peter 1:13

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

character & covenant form leadership

"I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, that the LORD may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, 'If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.'
1 Kings 2:2-4

In David's final charge to his son (now king), Solomon, he emphasizes that the first royal duty is faithfulness to God. Everything else flows from relationship with and obedience to God. And the measure of this in Israel was in the Word of God as revealed in the Law of Moses. If Solomon would be faithful to keep what was written there, leadership would flow from the commitment and character thus exhibited.

David is appealing really to two covenants. The first one is the one that all of Israel had with God as His unique people. And the document of that covenant was the Law of Moses. The nation would prosper as they were led by the king to be faithful to God through the Law.

The second covenant was the one God made with David, promising a ruler in His line forever on the throne of Israel. This was a covenant with no document, unilaterally held in the promise of God. It did insist that David's descendants lead, and David believed God when He made this promise to the line of David.

What would bring success would be an unwavering commitment to obedience to God and faithfulness to His Word. The first requirement of real leadership is character. And the kind of character forged in the heart by knowing and following God's Word is irreplaceable. It is the kind of character that builds a life for eternity. And that is what David knew, believed, and trusted right to his very last breath.

- Posted on an original iPad.
prepare your minds for action...
1 Peter 1:13

Monday, October 17, 2011

Faithful to the end

And the king swore, saying, "As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my soul out of every adversity, as I swore to you by the LORD, the God of Israel, saying, 'Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place,' even so will I do this day."
1 Kings 1:29-30

The ascension of Solomon to the throne of Israel begins in crisis and ends in confirmation. David is old, feeble, and clearly in his last days upon the earth. His son, Adonijah sees the chance to claim the throne and sets up a quiet revoluton. But news of Adonijah's actions reaches the palace, and Bathsheba comes before the king, along with Nathan the prophet to inform David of the problem. His last official act as king would be the setting up of a successor.

It is in that act that we see the faithful heart of David. First and foremost, he is faithful to the God Who has given him such a long life and allowed him such a long reign. His lifetime from boyhood on has been lived in service to the throne of Israel. And he has faced all kinds of adversity, always finding God to be His deliverer. He began his official proclamation by affirming the faithfulness of God. David has stayed "a man after God's own heart", even as he saw the end of his service to the throne of Israel.

David was also faithful to his promises. Bathsheba was aware that David had seen the potential in their son, Solomon. And David had promised her that Solomon would succeed him as king. And so he did. David kept his faithful promise to her. This is not how we might expect the story of David and Bathsheba to end, but God's grace made of even that difficult relationship, began in sin, something that had a really good end with the anointing of Solomon as king in the place of his father, David.

Faithful David served a faithful and gracious God. And that is what would carry God's work and David's legacy into the next generation.

- Posted on an original iPad.
prepare your minds for action...
1 Peter 1:13

Friday, October 14, 2011


I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.
Amos 9:14

You restore Your people
from misery's depth
You call forth mercy
and in grace give back
what sin has taken

You restore relationship
when nothing's left
You reach out with pity
and give Yourself to inact
a new covenant of restoration

You set the pace
for redemptive renewal
and we can only be impressed
as You take us back home
with a Father's great love

We see Your face
shining as a jewel
knowing that You redeemed our mess
so that with You we know
peace here now in in home above

- Posted on an original iPad.
prepare your minds for action...
1 Peter 1:13

Thursday, October 13, 2011

the worst human crisis imagineable

"Behold, the days are coming," declares the Lord GOD, "when 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. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it."
Amos 8:11-12

When we imagine the worst thing that can happen in a society, we tend to focus on the ravages of war, or a natural disaster. But God made it clear to the Jews that the worst judgment that He could send upon them would be a spiritual famine. It would involve a scarcity of His Word. When God is quiet, nearly silent, then how can any human hope to make sense of anything in life?

This is the sort of thing that God's people ought to dread. But the Jews at this point in their history were led by selfish aristocrats who did not care about either God or man. In context, chapter seven dealt with a priest intent on shutting down the prophet Amos, effectively wanting to stop hearing from God altogether. The first half of Amos 8 deals with the actions of an oppressive system that drudged through Sabbath and festival observances, anxious to resume commerce rather than worship the Lord. And when they got down to business, they overcharged and underpayed the poor. God was going to take care of both problems. He would give them what they wanted: no more messages from God. It would be a spiritual famine. But along with it, He would permanently end their abusive practices by sending them all into foreign exile as slaves, where the abuse they had dealt out would return to them.

When people reject God's truth, they should not be surprised when their society implodes. When God's truth is despised, it will eventually be unheard. And human beings left to their own inner "moral compass" will inevitably increase their sufferings and the evil they commit toward one another. Sometimes the worst judgments come when God leaves us alone to do as we please. Certainly humans are incapable of utopian realities by any human efforts. We need a guiding reality. We need the Word of the LORD!

- Posted on an original iPad.
prepare your minds for action...
1 Peter 1:13

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


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."
Amos 7:10

The priest of God, who should have allied with the prophet of God out of respect and obedience to the Word of God, turned against Amos. The reasons are clear. Amos was calling Israel to repent as he warned of God's impending judgment. This threatened the livelihood of Amaziah, a profitable religious niche he had cared out for himself. Amos took the people to task for worship mixed with idolatry. And Amaziah was at the top of that religious system.

The weapon being used against Amos is political in nature. Amaziah hopes that by being a tattletale to the king, that Amos will be intimidated and shut down. He is conspiring against God's prophet. By doing so, he is rejecting God's plan. But he seems totally unaccepting of the message that Amos brought. He accuses the prophet of treason because Amos preached that Jeroboam would be taken into exile at the end of a sword (Amos 7:11). He tries to chase the prophet down to Judah (Amos 7:12-13). He tries to destroy Amos' reputation and to scare him away from his calling.

But Amos responded with the truth. He had no calling but what God had given him. God took a shepherd and part-time fig picker and made him a prophet (Amos 7:14-16). And Amos had a message from God for Amaziah the priest: God was going to humiliate the leader of false worship in Israel (Amos 7:17). The same fate that awaited Jeroboam awaited Amaziah as well.

The main lesson I see in this episode is that the truth of God can defend itself. God will not let His Word go unheeded among His people. And He will not let His servants who faithfully proclaim His truth to be slandered. God did not stop the slander, but He did vindicate His prophet even as Amos had to endure the confrontation. It takes courage to uphold the truth. But God will uphold those who have the conviction to obey Him.

- Posted on an original iPad.
prepare your minds for action...
1 Peter 1:13

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

persistence of pride

The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts: "I abhor the pride of Jacob and hate his strongholds, and I will deliver up the city and all that is in it."
Amos 6:8

The pride of Jacob was manifested in an insane pursuit of leisure and personal pleasure. The people felt secure, but their wealth, gained by exploiting the poor, was a false security. God was going to bring them down. They felt more secure than other nations God had judged (Amos 6:1-2). But their trust in themselves would only hasten their disaster (Amos 6:3).

The luxury had numbed them to reality. They imagined themselves as kings in the land. They bedded down on ivory furniture, feasting on lamb and veal, content to soak in their own entertainment (Amos 6:4-5). They indulged in copious amounts of alcohol and their version of "spa treatments", exalting their own bodies, but refusing to mourn over the nation's spiritual complacency (Amos 6:6). This was a collective calloused conscience that was kept comfortably numb by the "good life". But God was going to sweep away the indifferent attitudes first in the worst of the judgment (Amos 6:7).

God is not impressed with human economic prosperity. It tends to exalt human achievement and fails often to bring about trust in God. That does not mean that wealthy people can't be God followers. But it does mean that the more we have, the easier it is to trust in ourselves. God had to reduce these people down to impoverished exiles before their hearts returned to Him. Incidious wealth will pull the human heart far away from reality! And it is not really riches that does that. It is our pride. And that is the first thing God hates in this context. Pride is the first sin in heaven that began with Lucifer. And it is often the first sin in our hearts as well.

- Posted on an original iPad.
prepare your minds for action...
1 Peter 1:13

Monday, October 10, 2011

where worship begins

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Amos 5:24

God would have none of the dead, ritualistic activity that passed for worship in Israel and Judah. He longed instead that moral character and actions would flow out from His people. But they had abandoned Him and obedience to His Word long before this. What was left was a stale formalism devoid of personal meaning that only ensured that judgment would fall upon them. Chapter five of Amos details this in prophetic, poetic urgency.

God promises a judgment that would remove 90% of the able-bodied men among the Jews (Amos 5:1-3). He offers a chance for them to return to Him and see a different outcome (Amos 5:4-9; 14-15). To do so would mean a return by the people to hearts and hands that practice the kind of living that righteousness demanded in the Law.

God lists all the societal sins of His people. The collective nature of selfishness led to a societal inequity that God would punish. The truth of the Law was hated (Amos 5:10). The rich among them were abusing the poor to further enrich themselves (Amos 5:11). The result was a cumulative culture of greed and abuse (Amos 5:12-13). When judgment fell, it would consume this entire culture (Amos 5:16-17). It would be so intense that it would cause people to wonder if indeed it was the final Day of the Lord judgment come to the earth (Amos 5:19-20). Amos clarifies that although it would be a horrible day, God would have a further day with all of humanity in the future.

God pronounces disgust with the formalistic religion and headnod to Him that was offered as "worship". He hated their cultural observances without personal commitment (Amos 5:21). He refused to accept offerings and sacrifices that came from hearts turned away from Him (Amos 5:22). He refused to listen to praise songs sung from lips that generally spoke against His truth (Amos 5:23). He had enough of their duplicity, promising to remove Israel's idolatry in His acts of judgment (Amos 5:25-27).

It is in this context that God's heart for His people is borne on the poetic reminder in Amos 5:24. Too many people today pull this verse from its context to support activism and "cause" righteousness. We should see it for what it is, recognizing the principles only within their proper context. It is a message calling for repentance. And the fruit of such repentance would be seen in real worship of Yahweh that would transform a culture with His character. Justice would be known. The poor would not be abused. God would be worshiped. All people rich and poor, small and great would know a living justice that would pour over the nation like a rolling river, starting with righteous obedience to God by individuals.

- Posted on an original iPad.
prepare your minds for action...
1 Peter 1:13

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Return to Me

"I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me," declares the LORD.
Amos 4:11

In many ways
God made them pay
for sinfully going astray
refusing to obey
but they did not return

So the prophets cried
and the truth was applied
to a people who denied
that they were on God's side
so they did not return

And warnings were made
about a coming day
when God would do what He said
as the people stumbled and bled
but they did not return

God's limit was reached
they ignored what was preached
the dam of judgment breached
flooding lives unimpeded
still they did not return

Lives were shattered
families were scattered
relationships and truth battered
because Israel ignored what mattered
and did not return

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

God is not hiding around the corner.

"For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets. The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken; who can but prophesy?"
Amos 3:7-8

Revelation serves as a confirmation of the Lord's sovereign rule over His people. God had chosen a unique relationship with his prophets whereby He would speak His actions to them. His people would be well prepared with full knowledge of their fate. God was not going to spring judgment on them in surprise.

What this passage is making clear is that God is not hiding behind corners waiting to do a sneak attack of judgment. His methods are not hidden. They are straightforward and clear. God would not make any move among His people withour first speaking it through His prophets. He is the clear communicator of His purposes. And Israel was told to expect to keep hearing from the prophets because God was moving in such a way that no one could say that they did not know what was coming. He was roaring like a lion, and nobody could deny the sound of His voice or the clarity of His message.

The one thing I know about revelation as I deal with it is its clarity. I deal with biblical revelation of immense diversity. The Bible is the book of my life. By that I mean I am devoting my life to understanding its message, to what it reveals aobut God and how I need to respond to His truth. And for all the difficulties of interpretation that may occassionally arise, there is a towering, undeniable record of clarity that I personally cannot deny. I have plenty to keep me busy, even if I never spend another minute working through the meaning of a "problem passage".

God's track record is pretty clear for me. I should not confuse it with the efforts of His people or the church, which are spotty at best. But I have never found His truth, His demands, His principles, or His revealed character to be anything other than magnificent. In a way, observations and applications of what I have seen in His Word are absolute undeniable evidence of God's existence and commitment to a personal impact on my life. I think of my journals as irrefutable personal evidence of God. And it is only possible because God has said so much. The Bible is information dense! Really, I have more information about God than I can process in my lifetime.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

discipline & judgment

Thus says the LORD: "For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they have rejected the law of the LORD, and have not kept his statutes, but their lies have led them astray, those after which their fathers walked. So I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the strongholds of Jerusalem."
Amos 2:4-5

At this point all the oracles of judgment in the book of Amos have focused on the historic enemies of the Jews. It is quite possible a certain smugness set in with the original audience of these prophecies. That is, until the same prophetic formula ("...for the three transgressions... and for four, I will not revoke the punishment) was directed at Israel and Judah. Then God's judgment got very serious. This was not a glib message with commercial vitality: "Three Ways to Find Success". No, it was a stern reminder of how God deals with unrepentant sin.

The sin of Judah that God points out is one of neglect and deliberate disobedience. They neglected the scriptures, in particular the law of God. God had given His Word to guide the nation. And they had let it fall to the ground. Instead, the leaders of Judah told lies, and the nation followed. And just like their forefathers, they had begun to practice idolatry. Abandoing God's truth led to disobedience to God's commands. And God promised fiery judgment, starting with the leadership in Jerusalem.

The power behind these indictments is the reality of judgment. Scripture will go on elsewhere to describe the eventual fall of Jerusalem. Eventually the total abandonment of the law of God would lead to judgment that resulted in the nation being led away captive to Babylon. There, in the discipline of their God, the Jews would return to loving God and obeying Him. A new respect for His law would re-emerge.

Although I take no joy in contemplating God's judgment on His people, I do take care to note that His justice is bound to His holiness. he does not take retributive vengeance. He gives lovely, holy discipline. This is shown in the manner in which He revealed this discipline to His people. The oracles of Amos are a demonstration of the merciful purposes in God's discipline. The Jews knew that God was going to do this. He loved them enough to warn them of the consequences of their sin and the nature of His disciplining and refining judgment.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

Monday, October 3, 2011

shock & awe

And he said: "The LORD roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers."
Amos 1:2

The first chapter of the book of Amos is all about the judgments pronounced against the nations around Israel and Judah. It might lead God's people to conclude that they were safe from God's actions against sin. The list starts with Damascus, the nation just north of Israel. It works its away geographically around the map, ending with Edom and Moab which are just south of Jewish territory. But that did not mean that God's people were free from answering to God. Really, the prophecies of Amos are like homing missiles. Or like artillery shells finding their range, they hone in on Israel. They find their target among God's people.

The effect of God's pronouncements against these nations is to instill the Jews with a sense of awe. The powerful prophecies go off like bombs in the capitals of the nations around them, eventually settling in with equally harsh judgments in the cities of Israel and Judah. God is getting the attention of His people by reminding them of His authority over all the nations. Then He gets to the issues with His people, Israel.

Part of the reason the prophets should still be read today is to instill us with the same sense of awe. God is powerful in His sovereign control over the world of humanity. And that control still extends into our lives at all levels. We should live with an awe-filled respect of His way and His judgments. We often sing of His love and His grace, but are we really worshipping God when we fail to sing of His judgments?

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13