Monday, October 23, 2017

Amos 8

Amos 8 contains the message of the prophet in light of the fourth of the five visions.  This vision, of summer fruit, indicates the time has come; Israel has ripened in terms of being ready to be judged.  The times were quite prosperous; but this prosperity would soon end and the end would come.  Note briefly:
·        The vision and it’s meaning, 8:1-3.  There will be no more delay from God.  This picks up from the third vision of the plumb line. 
·        The sin of Israel, 8:4-6.  The people could hardly wait for the (idolatrous) worship to conclude so they could get back to their very irreligious lives of cheating and oppressing those around them.

·        The judgment on Israel, 8:7-14.  The most terrifying words are from God: I will never forget!  Because He remembers their sin His judgment will come, a judgment of a great upheaval in the land (v7-8; perhaps speaking of the earthquake that came 2 years after Amos’ ministry, 1:1), the end of joy in their worship (v9-10; apparently in their worship the people put a lot of stock in their music as indicated by references twice in this chapter, v3,10), and a famine of the word of God (v11-14).  Either God would cease to speak or He would keep them from hearing.

There were times when God was significantly quiet with His people (e.g. Gen. 16:16-17:1; 1 Sam. 3:1; 28:6,15).  And this famine of hearing the words of the Lord was part of the prophetic ministry of other prophets such as Micah (3:5-7) and Ezekiel (7:6).  Psalm 74 is a Psalm from the time of the Babylonian exile and laments the fact that there were no prophets (74:9).  We know that for almost 400 years, from Malachi to John the Baptist, there was no inspires prophet, no new revelation from God.  Jesus acknowledged this famine in His day when Scripture says He saw the people as sheep not having a shepherd; so He began to teach them many things (Mark 6:34).  

Let us also note that this type of famine is predicted for the Church in the end times.  2 Timothy 4:1-5 speaks of this famine as a time when people cannot hear.  2 Peter 2:1-3 speaks of a time in the Church when false teachers arise, thus obscuring the true word of God.  Do we see this today?  In The Integrity Crisis Warren Wiersbe decries the fact that the word repent is not in the vocabulary of popular preachers.  As in the days of the Old Testament prophets the key word today is peace.  Preachers today often refrain from references to hell or judgment since people was a positive message.  Joseph Parker in The People’s Bible says people today do not sit, Bible in hand, testing the speaker by the revelation; and what they ask for they get.  They ask for chaff, and they get it.  Consider these words from A. W. Tozer in 1955 in The Root of the Righteous

For centuries the Church stood solidly against every form of worldly entertainment, recognizing it for what it was -- a device for wasting time, a refuge from the disturbing voice of conscience, a scheme to divert attention from moral accountability...But of late she has...given over the struggle.  She appears to have decided that if she cannot conquer the great god Entertainment she may as well join forces with him and make what use she can of his powers.  So today we have the astonishing spectacle of millions of dollars being poured into the unholy job of providing earthly entertainment for the so-called sons of heaven.

I remember reading in Dying for Change (Leith Anderson) the call for leadership that gets its authority from those who follow.  After all, if no one is following you’re no leader.  How unlike Amos who went and preached to a people that generally did not listed but who did not waver from the message of the One who gave him authority to speak.  We live in a time when people will not do the hard work of daily reading and study in God’s word.  They want to be hand-fed from the latest greatest icon of the evangelical world.  Worse, they only want the word when accompanied by entertainment or self-enriching philosophy.  For all this we will get what we deserve: a famine of hearing the word of God!  And then where will we be?

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Psalm 145

This Psalm, for me, serves as a wonderful guide to prayer.  Consider!
·        145:1-3: David begins with praise.  And how good is the Sweet Psalmist of Israel in giving praise to God.  God is to him my God O King.  How personal God is to him; and how properly God is King of Israel’s greatest king.  Perhaps David excels at praise because he is committed to give it every day, forever.  And of course he excels at praise because the God he praises is so worthy of praise, and whose greatness cannot ever be fully known!

·        145:4-7: David’s prayer is my prayer, that from my wife and me generations will follow who bless God, every day, and forever.  We pray for our children and generations of grandchildren to meditate on the splendor of His majesty.
·        145:8-9: How wonderful it is to regularly confess to God His name (Exodus 34:6-7), declaring His perfections.  This is our God who again, if we will take time to meditate on Him, we will find easy to praise.

·        145:10-13:  We pray, not only for our family but for the family of God, the saints.  These days there is no end of books and seminars to help correct all the faults in the local church.  But one must ask: is there faithful prayer the kind of prayer where we struggle for God’s people?  God’s kingdom is everlasting and enduring.  Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church.  We continually seek to redefine and remake and rework and re-everything the church.  What we must do is seek God on behalf of the saints that they would speak of the glory of His kingdom and make known to the sons of men His mighty acts.  Jesus, the Judge of every local church (Rev. 2-3), knows how to lead His saints in the way in which they should do this.  Thus we pray for several churches regularly.  Pray for God’s people!

·        145:14-16: This is what our God does, upholding those who fall and satisfying the desire of every living thing.
·        145:17-21:  This is our God!  Righteous! Gracious!  Near to all who call on Him.  Satisfying!  Preserving!  Eventually, in one way or another, all flesh will bless His holy name.  May we bless it NOW by perfecting our praise!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

God’s New Covenant with Israel, Isaiah 49:1-13

God made a promise to Israel that He would make a new covenant with them by which He will pour out His Spirit upon them.  It is critical to understand this today, both because many people have a renewed interest in Messianic theology, and because there is a literal nation of Israel that we need to understand properly.  

 With respect to the former issue, we hear often of people who, having seemed to come to Christ, opt to join a Messianic fellowship because the come to accept the obligations of the Law that are part Jewish culture.  With respect to the latter issue, it seems that many prophecies are being fulfilled in Israel today, prophecies concerning the regathering of the Jewish people and the restoration of the land.  Yet it is clear that today’s nation of Israel is not a saved nation, given that salvation is in no other name but that of Jesus the Messiah.  

One result of this is that there is a rise, among conservative Christians, of replacement theology that the promises made to the nation Israel, including the New Covenant, belong to Abraham’s spiritual descendants, the Church, instead of to the nation Israel.

Our study will involve going into the Old Testament to consider the promises God made.  But before we do that let us consider the ministry of Jesus: to whom did He come to serve?  Here is what we believe is the answer:
·        Jesus came to minister to Israel.
·        The Messiah’s ministry to Israel was intended by God to reach to the nations.

The Abrahamic Covenant promised a nation, people and land but also a blessing to the Nations (Gen. 12:1-3; 13:14-18; 22:15-19).

The Messiah was promised the nations as an inheritance (Psa. 2:6-9), and that through His ministry to Israel the Gentiles would also be saved (Isa. 49:1-13).  Note carefully Isa. 49:6: the Servant (Messiah) would be a light to the Gentiles in addition to Israel, not in place of Israel.  The Redeemer (Messiah) will come to Zion (Isa. 59:20), God will make His covenant with them (Isa. 59:20), and the Gentiles will come to Messiah’s light in Zion (Isa. 60:1-3).

In Romans Paul quotes the OT to make the point that the Gentiles are saved by virtue of Christ’s ministry to Israel.  In 10:18-21 and 11:11-24 the Gentiles receive salvation by Israel’s rejection of Christ.  He clearly adds that Israel still has a future salvation (11:25-32).  In 15:7-13 he says Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision (Jews)that the Gentiles might glorify God and supports this with several OT quotes, including Deut. 32:18 (Rom. 15:10).  Deut. 32 is the Song of Moses that predicted the demise of Israel, the salvation of Gentiles, and the eventual restoration of Israel.

John 1:11 says He came unto His own, meaning Israel.  Jesus Himself said I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 15:24).  This was the plan, as Jesus told the Samaritan woman, salvation is of the Jews (Jn. 4:22).  He was named Jesus because He would save His people (Israel) from their sins (Matt. 1:21).  Mary understood this when she said that God has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever (Lk. 1:54-55).  So did Zacharias when, filled with the Spirit, he said of the Incarnation, Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people (Lk. 1:68).  He came to Israel; the Gentiles would benefit from that visit to Israel.

Now the work that Christ came to do was to mediate a better covenant, the New Covenant, as is made clear in Hebrews.  We will consider that covenant as we continue our study.  For now it should be clear: the ministry of Christ was not for the Gentiles instead of the nation Israel; rather His ministry was to the Gentiles in addition to and through His ministry to Israel.  We ought to say what Paul said we should say, in this very context: Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! … To whom be glory forever. Amen. (Rom. 11:33-36)