Friday, May 18, 2018

from reprieve to ruin

For the Lord is restoring the majesty of Jacob
as the majesty of Israel,
for plunderers have plundered them
and ruined their branches.
Nahum 2:2

God would restore His plundered people in the judgment of Assyria and Ninevah would fall. That’s right, the same Ninevah that God spared when they repented at the preaching of Jonah was later judged as described here in the prophetic oracles of Nahum. God was doing this to bring glory to Himself and bring justice for His people. It wasn’t that God changed His mind capriciously between the two different prophets. Rather, it is that Ninevah hardened itself against God and would reap the consequences of its own cruelty. Just as Israel was plundered and ruined, so Assyria would fall.

Ninevah had a gracious reprieve under Jonah’s preaching. But by the time of Nahum, the brief revival of respect for Yahweh was gone. And ruin was God’s decree now. The nation that once prided itself on a brutal and efficient murdering army would itself be invaded and brutalized. Chariots would race through the city chasing people down in the haste of the invading army to plunder Assyria’s wealth. What would be left? Only desolation and smoking ruin (see Nahum 2:10).

When God has His day of judgment, no one can stop it. And the past is irrelevant to the present relationship with God. He calls people to believe, know, and worship Him NOW! A past of faithfulness won’t save a generation from His judgment if their present is only faithfulessness and unbelief! And His judgment is meant to call sinners back to faith, so that futures might be fixed on Him and His mercy, grace, and provision.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

calmed and quieted

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
Psalm 131:2

Peace is known when hope in God is experienced by faith and trust in God’s Word. We know a calming rest, a work of God’s Spirit in our hearts when we truly trust God. Our souls can be calmed and quieted. We can know a remarkable, amazing calm as we rest in the hope of eternal life through the work of Jesus Christ.

No matter what happens to me, in life or in death, my soul is at rest because of Christ. he carried my griefs and my sorrows to the cross, so I might know His peace by faith. He bore my sins so I might have forgiveness and eternal life.

Really, what can shake my world if this is what I know in Christ? I can be at peace, no matter what the future holds, because my final future is at rest with Christ. I can be as trusting as a small child with its mother. I have been calmed and quieted by my Lord’s love. And that peace will never end!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

ruling the assembly of the lame

In that day, declares the Lord,
I will assemble the lame
and gather those who have been driven away
and those whom I have afflicted;
and the lame I will make the remnant,
and those who were cast off, a strong nation;
and the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion
from this time forth and forevermore.
Micah 4:6-7

God’s beauty and grace shine through those who are broken. His power is given to the lame and He gathers a strong nation made up of refugees. He brings the homeless sojourners into His new home and those who limp along are assisted by His power as He reigns in restoration. This promise from Micah the prophet to the nation of Israel is that God would rebuild what His judgment had torn down. He would regather what He had scattered. He would forever rule those who had once rejected Him.

But the people that God would do this with would not be a proud, self-sufficient people who made themselves better by their own efforts. These people would be weak and helpless. They would be lame and homeless. They would need God, and God would not only rescue them, but He would regather them into a strong nation and forevermore reign over all the earth among them from Zion. This future hope will fully honor the covenants God made with Abraham, with Israel, and with David.

Jesus fulfills the covenants, as a son of Abraham, son of Israel, son of David, and the Son of God. And there will come a day when in the new heavens and the new earth He rules everything, fully acknowledged as King of kings and Lord of lords. And He shall reign forever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

God blesses hard work.

Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,
who walks in his ways!
You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.
Psalm 128:1-2

The blessing of the Lord is not a passive experience. It comes most often in the day to day diligent work that we do. We don’t sit back in the old Lazy Boy recliner and just wait for God to bless our inactivity. No... we work and God blesses. That has always been God’s plan for people. When Adam and Eve were first created sinless in God’s original creation, they were put into a garden and instructed to work in it. Work is part of God’s plan for us and is not a curse upon us! God blesses the labor of our hands.

I was raised to respect hard work by a blue-collar dad who wore himself out with physical labor. He was a dock worker, truck driver, and union man. Growing up, we were never rich, but we certainly weren’t poor. God blessed his hard work. That example has been my own model, and even though my life has had a different trajectory, I have been motivated by what I experienced, growing up to work hard, at times doing physical labor without complaint... not afraid to work two jobs when needed, and for most of my adult life now going into three decades of ministry vocation, serving the church through the hard work of pastoring.

Generally speaking, God has blessed this hard work. My family also is neither poor, nor wanting, but not what Americans would call rich. In global terms however, we are wealthy. And I know it and want to give back accordingly. Never in the Burch house had there been a worry about food, shelter, or clothing. For that I am thankful. And though there are times we may feel stressed more than blessed, God is always faithful to get us through!

Monday, May 14, 2018

God’s judgment is not a laughing matter.

But do not gloat over the day of your brother
in the day of his misfortune;
do not rejoice over the people of Judah
in the day of their ruin;
do not boast
in the day of distress.
Obadiah 12

In this short prophetic message of Obadiah, God warns the people of Edom that their destruction is sowing. Part of their judgment would be the ironic result of their own mockery of Judah’s fall. God doesn’t care for it when we make light of another person’s downfall. All the comedy clubs in Edom had bits about Jerusalem’s ransack. But God would not let them laugh over the destruction and judgment that befell Judah. Edom would not get to laugh untouched by judgment themselves.

God’s work is serious business and when He brings judgment upon sin it is not something we should applaud, no matter how much we have longed to see or how notorious the sinner. It should grieve us when bad consequences come as the result of sinful choices. We do not rejoice at the ruin of an enemy. We should not boast over sin’s destructive effects as the justice of God falls on another, especially since we ourselves are sinners equally deserving of judgment by God.

And in the cross of Christ all judgment on sin was taken. So when I see that as the place where sin is judged, I cannot gloat over any other person’s sin misery. It should sadden me. It isn’t right to laugh at such pain. It isn’t a gospel focus. It is sin itself and in a way it makes light of Jesus’ sacrifice. Instead, I must grieve that all sin deserves the wrath of God poured out on Christ on the cross. Jesus took that for me, for everyone, in His death. And I don’t laugh, but cry in my soul, grieving that cost.

Friday, May 11, 2018

a prayer from the good and upright

Do good, O Lord, to those who are good,
and to those who are upright in their hearts!
Psalm 125:4

This is a prayer in keeping with the covenant, asking God to remember the blessing that should come to His people as they worship the Lord and obey His law. It was part of a song that was sung by Israelites as they journeyed to Jerusalem and ascended the Temple Mount on holy days and feasts. So being mindful of the covenant with this prayer in song would become something of a family tradition in each generation.

This prayer for God to be faithful to His Word is readily answered. God will do this. He never lies. He always is beyond faithful to His promises. So the reason for this prayer was more for the people that it was for God. The song pulled people into an awareness of their obligations to the Law. They were to do good so that God would do good to them. They were to be upright of heart to know the blessing of God.

Now God has given us what is greater than the Law... we have Jesus. And in the freedom of the gospel we have Christ’s righteousness applied to us so we may now please Him by doing good. He has made our hearts upright before the Lord. We remember Him in our prayers and seek to live in what He has saved us to do... created to do good works and to worship our Lord.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

kings we crave

Where now is your king, to save you in all your cities?
Where are all your rulers—
those of whom you said,
“Give me a king and princes”?
I gave you a king in my anger,
and I took him away in my wrath.
Hosea 13:10-11

One of the root sources of Israel’s idolatry was the nation’s constant clamor to God to have a king over them “like all the other nations”. They coveted a king, and God would eventually let them have what they craved to their own hurt. 1 Samuel 8 chronicles the history of this craving. And although God warned them against the consequences of having a king, the nation selfishly demanded one to rule over them. And God let them have their desire, designing it as a kind of judgment upon them.

Having a king could have drawn them closer to God as their true King. Most of the time it did not do so. There were, however, a few bright spots under David and Solomon, perhaps later also with Josiah and Hezekiah, where imperfect men were used by God in this way. Yet for the most part the kings of Israel and Judah led the nation away from God and not toward worship and the keeping of the covenant. The problem was that kings are imperfect sinners just like those whom they rule. They could never lead perfectly.

Eventually both Israel and Judah fell into deep, immoral, unrepentant idolatry, heavily influenced by wicked kings. And the wrath of God would be revealed through the prophets, warning the nation of the curses of the Law coming upon them and their evil kings. As this went unheeded, God’s wrath eventually brought destruction, with the kings being the worst to suffer. Israel was decimated, never to exist as a group of people with a king over them in Samaria. Ten tribes were totally wiped out. Judah also was taken captive, never to see another king ruling in Jerusalem without some sort of foreign power behind the throne. Until Jesus rules from David’s throne again, this judgment will stand. God will rid his people of the false kings they crave.