Friday, February 26, 2016

The Believer In A Time of Judgment

Micah 7:1-20

“Woe is me! for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grapegleanings of the vintage: there is no cluster to eat: my soul desired the firstripe fruit.” (Micah 7:1)

Micah describes himself like a hungry person in fall after all the crops have been harvested.  Birds and animals had already gathered the gleanings of grapes and other fruit, and there was nothing with which to satiate his hunger. 

“The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net.  That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a reward; and the great man, he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up.  The best of them is as a brier: the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge: the day of thy watchmen and thy visitation cometh; now shall be their perplexity.” (Micah 7:2-4)

The entire culture was rotten and no one tried to do what was right.  They were constantly killing and taking advantage of each other.  The evil was accepted , with corrupt politicians and judges accepting bribes and powerful men able to get almost anything they want done.  The best and most honest will take advantage if given an opportunity, like carrying a piece of rose bush in your pocket.  The guardians and policemen will be troubled  by the things that happen

“Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom.  For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house.  Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.” (Micah 7:5-7)

One dared not trust the advice they were given, even by friends.  Secrets one told a friend or mate were likely to be used against him.  The sons had no respect for their fathers, and the daughters constantly rebelled and blamed they mothers for their problems, even suing or killing them.  Mothers in law and daughters in law made no effort to get along, and the worst enemies were members of one’s own family. 

“Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me.  I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness.  Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her which said unto me, Where is the LORD thy God? mine eyes shall behold her: now shall she be trodden down as the mire of the streets.” (Micah 7:8-10)

Though he served the Lord, Micah lived among the wicked people and would be affected by the things that they experienced.  When those things happened, his enemies should not think he was as bad as the rest.  Even at the worst times he would have the Lord as his light.  Knowing his own sin he would accept God’s judgment, trusting him to deliver him.  Those enemies that have made fun of his trusting God will be destroyed and he will survive to see it.   Micah was a figure for what Israel could expect. 

“In the day that thy walls are to be built, in that day shall the decree be far removed.  In that day also he shall come even to thee from Assyria, and from the fortified cities, and from the fortress even to the river, and from sea to sea, and from mountain to mountain.  Notwithstanding the land shall be desolate because of them that dwell therein, for the fruit of their doings.” (Micah 7:11-13)

One day God’s judgment will be ended, and Jerusalem rebuilt.  People will come back from all the countries they have been driven to when that that happens.  In the meantime, however, the land of Israel will be deserted and unoccupied as a result of the behavior of the people. 

“Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which dwell solitarily in the wood, in the midst of Carmel: let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.  According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt will I show unto him marvellous things.” (Micah 7:14-15)

Micah prays that God would deal with Israel like he did when they came out of Egypt.  They had gotten used to living on their own land and not answering to God.  They needed to experience the struggles before they took the land, conquering the Land of Gilead and taking the Land of Bashan. 

“The nations shall see and be confounded at all their might: they shall lay their hand upon their mouth, their ears shall be deaf.  They shall lick the dust like a serpent, they shall move out of their holes like worms of the earth: they shall be afraid of the LORD our God, and shall fear because of thee.” (Micah 7:16-17)

When Israel sent the spies to Jericho, Rahab told them all the people were terrified because they knew God was going to give Israel the victory.  When the Lord returns as King and reclaims Jerusalem, the nations of the world will have that same awareness of His power.  They will do everything in their power to escape his judgment, fearing the consequences of drawing his attention, like a snake hiding in the dust or a worm crawling out of a hole to get something to eat. 

“Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.  He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.  Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.” (Micah 7:18-20)

There is no other God who is willing to forgive deliberate sins and not hold the actions of our ancestors against us.  He doesn’t hold grudges, because he loves to give mercy.  He will consider our feelings and bring our sins under control, taking them away and sinking them into the deepest sea.    He will keep the promises he made to Abraham.   

While this prophecy was specifically to Judah, it relates to Christian today, as Galatians 3:6-9 explains.  “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.  Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.  And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.  So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.”

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Seeking Reconciliation

Micah 6:1-16

“Hear ye now what the LORD saith; Arise, contend thou before the mountains, and let the hills hear thy voice.   Hear ye, O mountains, the LORD'S controversy, and ye strong foundations of the earth: for the LORD hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel.” (Micah 6:1-2)

For hundreds ofyears, Israel had done as they pleased, worshipping other Gods and ignoring God’s commands, ignoring his efforts to work things out and denying any responsibility for the problems.   In a final effort to get their attention, God is publically declaring his complaints against Israel to the mountains and nations around them in an effort to work things out.     

“O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me.  For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.  O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal; that ye may know the righteousness of the LORD.” (Micah 6:3-5)

What has God done that they found other gods more attractive?  What are they so upset about?  What God remembers is freeing them from slavery in Egypt, and using Moses and his siblings to teach them.  They need to remember how Balak wanted Balaam to curse them and Balaam told him he couldn’t because God loved them and was determined to bless them.  They were like a dissatisfied wife who has forgotten why she married her husband.  All they remembered were the problems. 

“Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?  Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?  He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?  The LORD'S voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.” (Micah 6:6-9)

Reconciliation was not going to require sacrificing their children or giving up everything they had.  He wouldn’t even be pleased with them giving thousands of rams or a lot of money.  His demands were not excessive.   All he is asking is that they do what they agreed to do.  They need to treat other people fairly, to show mercy, rather than being vindictive, and to put away their pride and recognize God’s authority.  They don’t need to worry about losing their identity, because God will make others to recognize them. 

“Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is abominable?  Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag of deceitful weights?  For the rich men thereof are full of violence, and the inhabitants thereof have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.” (Micah 6:10-12)

Reconciliation in marriage requires that they guilty party put away pictures of other man or woman, and gifts they have given and stop staying out late, going to bars and dances without the mate.  In the same way, God was saying they needed to get rid of the reminders of those other Gods and stop doing the things they did when with them.  They would have to stop cheating their customers.  They’d have to quit using intimidation and violence to get their ways, and stop lying.

“Therefore also will I make thee sick in smiting thee, in making thee desolate because of thy sins.  Thou shalt eat, but not be satisfied; and thy casting down shall be in the midst of thee; and thou shalt take hold, but shalt not deliver; and that which thou deliverest will I give up to the sword.  Thou shalt sow, but thou shalt not reap; thou shalt tread the olives, but thou shalt not anoint thee with oil; and sweet wine, but shalt not drink wine.” (Micah 6:13-15)

Their insistence on continuing those things would result in God refusing to give them the things they wanted.  The food they received would not be satisfactory, and they would be repeatedly shamed in front of others.  Their efforts to make things happen will fail, and what they get will be taken from them.  They will put out all the effort to make things better, but it will not happen. 

For the statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab, and ye walk in their counsels; that I should make thee a desolation, and the inhabitants thereof an hissing: therefore ye shall bear the reproach of my people.” (Micah 6:16)

Instead of doing what God had commanded, they were keeping the commands of king Omri, and copying the actions of Ahab.  They were following the advice of these wicked kings, completely ignoring God’s instructions and the agreement with him.    As a result, God is going to withdraw and leave them alone.  Other people will point at them as failures, and they will held responsible for Israel’s breakup.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Christ’s Earthly Kingdom

Micah 5:1-15

“Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek.” (Micah 5:1)

God had brought Israel under attack and they would be defeated, It would strike a blow against the rulers of Israel. 

“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.  Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel.”  (Micah 5:2-3)

This is the prophecy the priests quoted to tell Herod where Jesus would be born.  Though they would be taken captive along with the rest, it would be rebuilt at the time of Messiah’s birth.  All of the Jews will come back to Israel, when Messiah establishes his kingdom at the end of the Tribulation. 

“And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.  And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men.  And they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in the entrances thereof: thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders.” (Micah 5:4-6)

When Christ establishes his earthly kingdom, he will stand in the power of God.  As we learn from various prophecies in Daniel (Daniel 2, 7,8,11),a coalitions of ten countries will take world power, but a separate leader will overthrow three of those countries an take control.  When they do, they turn on the ancient kingdom started by Nimrod, later controlled by the Sumerians, and in Micah’s day by the Assyrians.  Later it would be conquered by the Babylonians, and Revelation 17-18 describes the destruction of Babylon near the end of the Tribulation.  

“And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the LORD, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men.  And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.  Thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off.” (Micah 5:7-9)

In that day, the Jews will be a blessing to lands where they dwell.  Christ will rule with a rod of iron, and attacks on the Jews will be put down aggressively.  Those who hate the Jews will be destroyed. 

“And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots: And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strong holds: And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand; and thou shalt have no more soothsayers: Thy graven images also will I cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee; and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands.  And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee: so will I destroy thy cities.  And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen, such as they have not heard.” (Micah 5:10-15)

For centuries, Israel depended on military might for their protection, rather than on the Lord.  In that day, he will take away all their military might.  Horses and chariots, the forerunners of modern tanks and armored cavalry, will be melted down and made into things for peace time use.   Their forts and military bases will be decommissioned and destroyed.  Mystics, psychics, and shamans will be executed.  The idols and false religions will be destroyed along with their centers of worship.  While the focus of the Tribulation will be on the Jews, other nations will be judged in ways they have never imagined.  

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Restoration To Come

Micah 4:1-13

“But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.  And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” (Micah 4:1-2)

At the time of the Lords return, Jerusalem will be established as the capital of Christ’s kingdom.  Isaiah 65 and Revelation 20-21 also describe a time when the world will flock to Jerusalem to worship God, and to learn what he commands.    Jesus Christ will be the king. 

“And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.  But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it. For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.” (Micah 4:3-5)

Isaiah 11:10 makes it clear who the king will be in that day, and that the people turn to him.  “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious. “  Revelation 19:15-16 describes how he keeps things undetr control.  “And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.  And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”  There will no longer be the power struggles we see today. 

“In that day, saith the LORD, will I assemble her that halteth, and I will gather her that is driven out, and her that I have afflicted; And I will make her that halted a remnant, and her that was cast far off a strong nation: and the LORD shall reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth, even for ever.  And thou, O tower of the flock, the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.” (Micah 4:6-8)

Israel would be carried away from their land, but eventually God will bring them back.  Isaiah 11:11-13 describes what will happen.  “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.  And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.  The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.”  For centuries, competition between the northern and southern kingdoms had interfered with their serving God.  In that day even the internal conflicts will be ended.

“Now why dost thou cry out aloud? is there no king in thee? is thy counsellor perished? for pangs have taken thee as a woman in travail.  Be in pain, and labour to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail: for now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and thou shalt dwell in the field, and thou shalt go even to Babylon; there shalt thou be delivered; there the LORD shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies.” (Micah 4:9-10)

As the Assyrians took Israel, they invaded Judah as well.  Instead of trusting God, Judah first tried to buy the Assyrians off, which the Assyrians took as a sign of weakness.   God was still there and willing to help them.  The troubles they were going through were to help them understand God wanted to help.   Because of their refusal to trust they would be taken captives by Babylon, where God would protect them and bring them back after seventy years. 

“Now also many nations are gathered against thee, that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion.  But they know not the thoughts of the LORD, neither understand they his counsel: for he shall gather them as the sheaves into the floor.  Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion: for I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass: and thou shalt beat in pieces many people: and I will consecrate their gain unto the LORD, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth.” (Micah 4:11-13)

Nations that didn’t understand God’s love were crying for the total destruction of Israel.  Like many ungodly people today, they didn’t understand God’s punishment was to correct Israel, assuming it was done out of hatred rather than love.  When it was done, God would gather them into his arms like a father does a repentant child.  The people who had tried to capitalize on their punishment would be destroyed, and the things they had claimed would be given to God.  

Monday, February 22, 2016

Judgment on Judah and Jerusalem

Micah 3:1-12

“And I said, Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel; Is it not for you to know judgment?  Who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones; Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them; and they break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron.  Then shall they cry unto the LORD, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings.” (Micah 3:1-4)

The political, religious , and business  leaders of Israel were responsible for the moral and ethical standards in the nation.  They should not think they were immune to judgement for their sin.  They hated those who did what was right, and protected the evil, ripping off everything the good people had and leaving them destitute and starving, with no more concern than a person cutting up a piece of meat to cook it.  When God’s judgment falls, and they are calling for help, God will not listen to their pleas any more than they have for other people.      

“Thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him.  Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them.  Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God.” (Micah 3:5-7)

The preachers and religious leaders were teaching the people to sin.  When they took advantage and hurt them, they blamed them for getting upset, and anyone who didn’t donate to them freely was attacked.  As a result, things would get so confused they couldn’t make their plans or predict what was going to happen.   Their errors would become known and people would lose confidence in their recommendations and promises.  They will reach a point where they are afraid to make predictions, because God doesn’t do what they expect. 

“But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin.” (Micah 3:8)

Though they didn’t want to hear him, Micah was full of God’s Spirit, empowered to teach them about justice, or fair play,  and to warn them about their sin and disobedience to God. 

“Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity.  They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity.  The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us.” (Micah 3:9-11)

The leaders hated real justice and fairness.  They deliberately perverted the laws, favoring one side over the other.  They allowed or caused people to be killed to gain power and depended on sinful enterprises to keep them in power.  Laws, political decisions and court rulings depended on bribes and lobbying efforts.  The churches and religious organizations adapted their practices on what got people to give the most, and the preacher’s messages were based on what the people wanted to hear.   All of this was based on their claims to be serving God, and statements that God was going to protect them so that nothing bad would happen to them. 

“Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.” (Micah 3:12)

Because of their attitude and sin, Zion, the political and religious district of Jerusalem would be plowed like a field.  The main part of Jerusalem would become a ruin with heaps of rubble everywhere.    The temple mount would be as barren as God had made the places of idolatry in the forests.  

Friday, February 19, 2016

Judgment Results From Their Sin

Micah 2:1-13

“Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand.  And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.” (Micah 2:1-2)

God’s law provided specific guidelines to protect the ownership rights of the Jewish people.  As time passed the Jews had become more focused on obtaining wealth.  They plotted ways to bypass those protections so that they could appropriate land they wanted, like Jezebel plottong to seize Naboth’s vineyard in I Kings 21.  They used fraud, unfair lending practices, unfair laws, and even murder to take people’s family property away.    God was angered by their actions. 
“Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, against this family do I devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks; neither shall ye go haughtily: for this time is evil.  In that day shall one take up a parable against you, and lament with a doleful lamentation, and say, We be utterly spoiled: he hath changed the portion of my people: how hath he removed it from me! turning away he hath divided our fields.  Therefore thou shalt have none that shall cast a cord by lot in the congregation of the LORD.” (Micah 2:3-5)

Because of their disregard for God’s commands and the rights of other people, God was bringing punishment on Jacob’s descendants.  They will not be able to escape, and will be shamed by people talking about how God has taken away their lands and given them to other people.  They will reach a point where there is no one left to settle disputes. 

“Prophesy ye not, say they to them that prophesy: they shall not prophesy to them, that they shall not take shame.  (Micah 2:6

They had reached a point where  they banned people telling them what God had said because they didn’t want to be embarrassed by being reminded that what they were doing was wrong.

“O thou that art named the house of Jacob, is the spirit of the LORD straitened? are these his doings? do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?” (Micah 2:7)

They needed to look back and remember how good things had been when they kept God’s laws.  The people who had obeyed him had been blessed, but the further they got from following God’s plan the worse things became. 
“Even of late my people is risen up as an enemy: ye pull off the robe with the garment from them that pass by securely as men averse from war.  The women of my people have ye cast out from their pleasant houses; from their children have ye taken away my glory for ever.” (Micah 2:8-9)

Criminals assaulted and robbed people because the people had become so opposed to war they would no longer defend themselves.  Widows and orphans had their property seized and were driven from their homes because they had lost respect for God.   

“Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted, it shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction.” (Micah 2:10)

This was not the kind of world God had promised Israel, but if they stayed in it, it would destroy them right along with everyone else.    

“If a man walking in the spirit and falsehood do lie, saying, I will prophesy unto thee of wine and of strong drink; he shall even be the prophet of this people.” (Micah 2:11)

They would follow a man who played on their emotions even when what he proclaimed was obviously a lie, accepting his statements without question.  One con artist said, “the bigger the lie, the more people will fall for it.” 

“I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah, as the flock in the midst of their fold: they shall make great noise by reason of the multitude of men.  The breaker is come up before them: they have broken up, and have passed through the gate, and are gone out by it: and their king shall pass before them, and the LORD on the head of them.” (Micah 2:12-13)

The house of Israel had been broken up and were being scattered and driven away, with their king being led away captive, leaving their land.  It will affect the entire nation, even the areas that had been taken by other nations, and God will show his power in humiliating them.  

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Judgment of Samaria

Micah 1:1-16

The word of the LORD that came to Micah the Morasthite in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.” (Micah 1:1)

Micah prophesied in Judah between about 720 and 680 BC.  Over the years Syria and Assyria had gradually take most of Israel’s land.   Finally, about 700 BC, the Assyrians captured the government center in Samaria and Israel collapsed.    Micah explained why these things were happening, as they happened.   

“Hear, all ye people; hearken, O earth, and all that therein is: and let the Lord GOD be witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.  For, behold, the LORD cometh forth out of his place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth.  And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place.” (Micah 1:2-4)

The people of Judah needed to be warned about what was happening.  God was going to bring Judgment on nation.  He would come out onto the earth, stepping on the high places where they had been worshipping.  The mountains would melt at his step and the valleys would break open like wax in a fire, flowing like water down a steep slope. 

“For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? is it not Samaria? and what are the high places of Judah? are they not Jerusalem?  Therefore I will make Samaria as an heap of the field, and as plantings of a vineyard: and I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley, and I will discover the foundations thereof.  And all the graven images thereof shall be beaten to pieces, and all the hires thereof shall be burned with the fire, and all the idols thereof will I lay desolate: for she gathered it of the hire of an harlot, and they shall return to the hire of an harlot.”  (Micah 1:5-7)

The Judgment will come because of the sins of Jacob’s family, both Judah and Israel.  Samaria, the capital of Israel had deliberately led them in worshipping idols on the high places.   Judah had been more discrete in their idolatry, hiding it in Jerusalem next to the temple.   Because their sin was o open, god will deal with Samaria like a pile of dirt and rubble in the middle of a field being prepared for a vineyard.   He will haul the rocks away and dump them, until the pile is eliminated and the natural soil is exposed.   The stone idols will be smashed, and the money that was given as sacrifices to obtain their blessings will be burned.   The shrines and altars will be barren and unused.  Like a prostitute, Israel has served who ever offered quick rewards, and they will continue to do so. 

“Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked: I will make a wailing like the dragons, and mourning as the owls.  For her wound is incurable; for it is come unto Judah; he is come unto the gate of my people, even to Jerusalem.” (Micah 1:8-9)

When Israel was destroyed, there would be no recovery or second chances.   The destruction of their sister nation would be an upsetting event for the nation of Judah, and especially as the Assyrians would come up to very gate of Jerusalem before God turned them back    II Kings 18 describes the events including Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah. 

“Declare ye it not at Gath, weep ye not at all: in the house of Aphrah roll thyself in the dust.   Pass ye away, thou inhabitant of Saphir, having thy shame naked: the inhabitant of Zaanan came not forth in the mourning of Bethezel; he shall receive of you his standing.  For the inhabitant of Maroth waited carefully for good: but evil came down from the LORD unto the gate of Jerusalem.”  (Micah 1:10-12)

Sennacherib’s army conquered the smaller cities in Judah, including the Philistine cities the controlled.  Those cities had counted on Judah and the God of Judah to protect them even as they turned to the idols of the people around them, with the army even preparing to attack Jerusalem itself.

“O thou inhabitant of Lachish, bind the chariot to the swift beast: she is the beginning of the sin to the daughter of Zion: for the transgressions of Israel were found in thee.  Therefore shalt thou give presents to Moreshethgath: the houses of Achzib shall be a lie to the kings of Israel.” (Micah 1:13-14)

Lachish had adopted the goddess of war with her chariot hitched to a flying beast, and worshipped al  the other idols that were worshipped in Samaria.  They had spread their idolatry and influenced the kings, of Judah, especially Ahaz.

“Yet will I bring an heir unto thee, O inhabitant of Mareshah: he shall come unto Adullam the glory of Israel.  Make thee bald, and poll thee for thy delicate children; enlarge thy baldness as the eagle; for they are gone into captivity from thee.” (Micah 1:15-16)

Despite their sin and God’s judgment, descendants of those cities will one day return to the land of Palestine.  In the meantime they will go through a prolonged period of sorrow and regret.    For a time their descendants will be taken into captivity.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Pouting Prophet

Jonah 4:1-10

“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.  And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.  “Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:1-3)

Jonah hated the Assyrians and refused to go to Nineveh when God told him to.  Three days and nights in the fish’s belly convinced him to go despite his hatred, but he was like a rebellious child, doing the least possible, to keep from receiving more punishment.   He offered no reason for hope, just the eight word message, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”   He is so upset that they have turned to
God and will not be destroyed he asked God to just let him die. 

When the people of Nineveh repented of the sin, Jonah got mad and blamed God.  He had deliberately gone toward Tarshish because he was afraid those people would repent, and that if they did, God was a merciful God and would forgive them.  He was far more concerned about what he wanted than what God wanted.  Unfortunately many Christians today have a similar attitude and think they deserve great rewards for doing what God has told them.  Luke 17:10 says that if we have only done what we were commanded to, we’ve not produced anything extra and don’t deserve special praise or rewards.  “likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”

In I Corinthians 9:16-17, Paul makes a similar statement.  “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!  For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.”  We’ve been commissioned to tell others.  It is our duty to tell others.  Our attitude about it is what will determine whether we receive rewards for doing it.  When we are resentful about having to do it, we cannot even have the pleasure of having done our job well.   

“Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4)

God asked Jonah if he had the right to be mad.  After all he was doing what God had told him to do, which was the job he had undertaken as a prophet.  Jonah never answered God. 

“So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.” (Jonah 4:5)

Jonah went out and set up a place to sit while he sulked and watched to see whether he would get his way or not. 

“And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.” (Jonah 4:6)

God caused a gourd vine to grow up over the booth Jonah had made and give him shade while he sulked, probably to remind Jonah that he did care about Jonah, and that he was God.  Jonah thoroughly appreciated the shade God gave. 

“But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.  And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:7-8)

The next day, a worm ate through the stem of the gourd, killing it.  A little later a strong east wind started blowing and the hot sun and east wind quickly dried out the gourd so the leaves blew away, leaving Jonah sitting in the sun, like he had been before.   In a very real, practical way, God showed Jonah that as God, he could bless him or not as he pleased.  Jonah reverted back to his pity party, insisting he would be better off dead since God wasn’t blessing him. 

“And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?

And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.

Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:9-11)

God again asked Jonah if he really had the right to be angry about God letting a gourd vine die.  Jonah insisted he did because the vine meant so much to him, justifying even his wish to die.  God then pointed out that the vine had was just a weed that had grown overnight, and Jonah had had nothing to do with its growth.  If Jonah thought he had that right to be upset about such a gourd vine which has no ability to think or make decisions, didn’t he think God had the right to be upset at the death of more than 600,000 people who God had created, who didn’t know how to choose what they should do, besides the thousands of cattle they had? 

Over the years, I have observed a lot of Christians with attitudes like Jonah’s.  Sometimes it is a pastor or missionary who has not attained the fame and fortune they hoped to get in the ministry or who keep looking back at some career they might have had if they hadn’t gone into the ministry.  Sometimes it has been a husband or wife who resents having to fulfill their marriage vows to a mate who isn’t as attractive or successful as they had hoped to make them.  Other people resent being stuck in a certain town or living in a house that is not as nice as they wanted because of where God has led them.   Like Jonah, they are more concerned with their own desires and comfort than with what God wants.

As I mentioned earlier, present day estimates place Nineveh’s population at 100,000-150,000 people,  Those estimates are based on the size and number of permanent structures in the inner fortress, the structures built by the wealthy or at government expense.  As the scripture indicates, the actual population of the area was at least four to six times that large, but since most of their homes were not constructed of such durable materials or protected by the walls, they have not survived.    Even official census records do not provide accurate population figures since they are primarily concerned with how many men are available for military service or to pay taxes.  As a result modern estimates of ancient populations are far smaller than ancient records indicate.  

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Jonah’s prophecy to Nineveh

Jonah 1:17-3:9

“Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17)

The story of Jonah being swallowed by a fish is often mocked as being impossible, but there are several stories of men having been swallowed  by fish like creatures and survived, including one in 1758, a man named James Barkley in the 1880’s, and a man survived being swallowed by a shark in the English channel about 1926.  Tires, whole cows and horses, and sharks as long as sixteen feet have been discovered intact in some whales, so there is no question it is possible for them to swallow a person, even with normal fish, and the scripture says God prepared a special one. 

“Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.  For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.  

Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.  The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.  I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.

When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.  They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.  But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.  And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land. ” (Jonah 2:1-10)

At first, Jonah was undoubtedly too scared to do anything but ask God to save his life.  After sixty or seventy hours inside the fish, surrounded by seaweed and water, he got serious about his relationship with God and recognized that he had lied to himself in thinking he could successfully rebell against God and caused his problems.  He recognized salvation could only come from the Lord, and promised to keep his promise to tell people what God had said, and to be thankful if he saved.  The fish beached itself and spirt Jonah out on the shore. 

“And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.  

So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey.  And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” (Jonah 3:1-4)

The second time God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, he didn’t refuse.  It was one of the largest cities in the world in that day, and took three days to cross the city and her suburbs.   Because there was no efficient means of moving large amounts of food, there had to be enough farmland inside the city and in the suburbs to provide all the fresh produce and meat, so that the population density could not be as high as it is today.  The fortress at the center of the city enclosed an area of about three square miles.  It is estimated to have had 100,000-150,000 inhabitants. 

Like cities such As Las Vegas, Chicago, or New Orleans, Nineveh was known for their tolerance of prostitution, murder, robbery, drunkenness, and other crimes.  Jonah went a single day’s into the city, shouting that in forty days Nineveh would be destroyed.  His warning spread like wildfire and the within a few hours the entire city had heard. 

“So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.  For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.  And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.  Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?” (Jonah 3:5-9)

The people of Nineveh were concerned about the growing crime rates and took Jonah’s warning seriously and acknowledged what they were doing was wrong.  The king and government officials took the lead and set the examples, making proclamations that the wickedness and violence would no longer be tolerated.  Though Jonah had said nothing about God changing his plan if they stopped, they hoped he would.  Wicked as they were, the people of Nineveh were more receptive to God’s word than Israel was at the time.   

“And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.” (Jonah 3:10)

Because the People of Nineveh had turned from their sin, God did not destroy Nineveh, and the Assyrian Empire continued to grow.  They would survive for another two hundred years.  

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Rebellious Prophet

Jonah 1:1-16

From 11 Kings 14, we learn that Jonah prophesied during the reigns of Joash of Israel and Joash of Judah.  This puts his prophecies around 825 BC, approximately a hundred forty years before the Assyrians conquered Israel.  It was a period of judgment on Israel because they had turned to Idolatry. An understanding of Assyrian history helps in understanding Jonah’s prophecy.

The Assyrian Empire began around 1770 BC.  It was a fierce dictatorship allowing no freedom in the countries they conquered.  Eventually their subjects rebelled and they were taken over by the Hurrians, a Hittite group, about 1680 BC.  About 1400 BC, the Assyrians broke away and started rebuilding, eventually conquering even Babylon.  The Aramaens rebelled and conquered thaemabout 1076 BC, but the Assyrians regained power in 934 BC.  They moved their capital to Nineveh and began their last period of expansion.  In an effort to prevent future rebellions they became even more dictatorial and cruel, torturing and murdering people indiscriminately. 

“Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.” (Jonah 1:1-2)

God was aware of the wickedness of the Assyrian  Empire and told Jonah to go to Nineveh, and warn them of his impending Judgment.   Nineveh was about six hundred miles to the east of Israel.

“But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” (Jonah 1:3)

Jonah knew the history of the Assyrians and that they were becoming a threat to Israel again.   He hated them and refused to go and warn them for fear they might listen.  Instead, he went to the coast and found a trading ship headed in the opposite direction, toward southern Spain.    It would take weeks to get there.

“But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.  Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.  So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.: (Jonah 1:4-6)

God sent a violent storm, perhaps a typhoon or hurricane, and the waves were so violent the there was danger of the ship breaking up.  Terrified, the sailors began to cry to the gods of their different religions and to throw their merchandise overboard to lighten the ship, reducing the amount of water they shipped and the stress on the framework.  Unawares, and with nothing else to do, Jonah had gone to sleep.  The ship’s captain woke him up and told him he had better start praying if he didn’t want to die. 
“And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.  Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?” (Jonah 1:7-8)

Usually the sailors would have considered such storms normal but this was so bad they suspected a supernatural cause.  They prayed and cast lots in an attempt to determine who had done something so bad as to make the sea Gods so angry.  The lot identified Johan as the culprit and the sailors began asking who he was and what he did in and effort to find out what he had done. 

“And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.

Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.  Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous.” (Jonah 1:9-11)

Jonah told them that he was a Jew and a prophet of the God who created the earth. and that he was going to Spain to get out of doing what God had told him to do.  Desperate to save themselves, the sailors asked what they would need to do to pacify God’s anger. 

“And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.  Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.” (Jonah 1:12-13)

Jonah told them that to satisfy God’s anger, because it was his refusal to obey that caused the storm, they would need to throw him overboard.  Not wanting to have his death on their conscience, the men tried to row the ship to shore instead.   They storm was so bad they made no progress so that they couldn’t remain on course.   

“Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee.  So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.  Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.” (Jonah 1:14-16)

Finally it got so bad the men decided their only hope of survival was to do Hat Jonah said and throw him overboard.  They prayed and asked God not to hold them accountable for causing his death by doing what God said.  When they threw him overboard the sea started settling down immediately.   As a result, the sailors developed and extreme respect for God, and offered sacrifices to him. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Destruction Of Edom

Obadiah 1:1-21

“The vision of Obadiah. Thus saith the Lord GOD concerning Edom; We have heard a rumour from the LORD, and an ambassador is sent among the heathen, Arise ye, and let us rise up against her in battle.” (Obadiah 1:1)

Many scholars have placed Obadiah as a contemporary of Elisha and Elijah, around 850 BC, probably because of the Obadiah who served the Lord in Ahab’s day.   Esau, Jacob’s brother had hated Jacob, and though they later worked things out, Esau’s descendants never to let go of the wrong they felt Jacob had done Esau which resulted in their being conquered by Israel.   The prophecy mentions the Edomites turning on Israel, which didn’t happen until II Chronicles 28, so I believe the correct date is much later.  Another Obadiah is mentioned about a hundred years later, in II Chronicles 34, who may or may not have been the prophet.   Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel made similar prophecies against Edom, from about 700 BC to about 550 BC. 

“Behold, I have made thee small among the heathen: thou art greatly despised.  The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?  Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD.” (Obadiah 1:2-4)

Even at its peak, Edom had never been a large country.   They lived in a rocky mountainous semi-desert region which made it hard for large enemy forces to fight effectively.  When they broke away from Judah and began to ally themselves with other countries they were very confident of their own power.  God said he would destroy them.     

“If thieves came to thee, if robbers by night, (how art thou cut off!) would they not have stolen till they had enough? if the grapegatherers came to thee, would they not leave some grapes?   How are the things of Esau searched out! how are his hidden things sought up!  All the men of thy confederacy have brought thee even to the border: the men that were at peace with thee have deceived thee, and prevailed against thee; they that eat thy bread have laid a wound under thee: there is none understanding in him.”  (Obadiah 1:5-7)

If Edom were attacked by thieves, they would only take the things they wanted, leaving the rest.  People picking fruit or grapes invariably miss some.  When God judges Edom, nothing will be missed.  The countries Edom had allied themselves to would turn on her and destroy her at their leisure, using the things they learned from their alliance to take everything, with no concern for the Edomite people. 

“Shall I not in that day, saith the LORD, even destroy the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of the mount of Esau?  And thy mighty men, O Teman, shall be dismayed, to the end that every one of the mount of Esau may be cut off by slaughter.  For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.  In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast as one of them.” (Obadiah 1:8-11)

When God’s judgment comes, the entire Edomite culture will be destroyed and their fighting men killed.  As a result of their turning on Israel and Judah when they were attacked and helping their enemies, ignoring the relationship between them, the Edomite nation would be completely wiped out forever. 

“But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger; neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress.  Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; yea, thou shouldest not have looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity, nor have laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity; Neither shouldest thou have stood in the crossway, to cut off those of his that did escape; neither shouldest thou have delivered up those of his that did remain in the day of distress.” (Obadiah 1:12-14)

The Edomites had never forgiven Israel for the wrongs they had done.  When Israel was struggling, and being defeated, the Edomites had laughed at the, and taken advantage of their defeats to attack and steal from them as well, cheering on their enemies.  When the Jews tried to escape, they had blocked their escape routes and assisting the Babylonians and others in capturing all the people of Jerusalem.   

“For the day of the LORD is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head.  For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been.” (Obadiah 1:15-16)

God’s judgment would come, and when it did, they would be punished for what they had done.  That Israel had done it to their ancestors would not excuse their actions.  In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus warns, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  God will judge those people for their sins who have hurt us.  Holding grudges will just result in us being judged ourselves. 

“But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.  And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them, and devour them; and there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau; for the LORD hath spoken it.  And they of the south shall possess the mount of Esau; and they of the plain the Philistines: and they shall possess the fields of Ephraim, and the fields of Samaria: and Benjamin shall possess Gilead.” (Obadiah 1:17-19)

Israel will be delivered from captivity and regain their land.  The Edomites will become fuel for a fire the Jews start, with Edom being completely wiped out.  People from the south will take their land and people from the plains areas will invade and conquer the Philistines and control Samarian and Ephraim, and the little tribe of Benjamin will control the area east of the Jordan. 

The  Babylonian captivity left Israel largely uninhabited and the Edomites seized a lot of the land, but were defeated and conquered by the Nabateans, an Arabic group who began to take over the Edomite lands about 550 BC, building several major cities, including Petra.  Nehemiah 2:20 describes the initial alliance between the Arabians, the Horites9Edomites), and the Ammonites that would become known as the Nabateans to modern historians.  Ultimately, the entire Edomite culture was wiped out.   Later the Jews would become bitter enemies of the Nabateans. Under Jonathan, (ca. 103-76 BC), also known as Alexander Jannaeus, a descendant  of the Macabbes. the Jews would occupy Gilead and Moab, which were at the time Nabatean lands, fulfilling  another part of Obadiah’s prophecy. 

“And the captivity of this host of the children of Israel shall possess that of the Canaanites, even unto Zarephath; and the captivity of Jerusalem, which is in Sepharad, shall possess the cities of the south.   And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD'S.” (Obadiah 1:20-21)

The Jews who return after the captivity will possess the land of Canaan as far north as Zarephath, between Tyre and Sidon.    The Jewish captives from Jerusalem who had been carried away to Sepharad, in Asia Minor, , the area around the river Kur, will possess the southern area known as the Negeb.  In that day Israel will be God’s kingdom.  while these have been partially fulfilled, the complete fulfillment will not come until the Lord’s return.  

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Promise To Abraham Will Be Fulfilled

Amos 9:1-15

“I saw the Lord standing upon the altar: and he said, Smite the lintel of the door, that the posts may shake: and cut them in the head, all of them; and I will slay the last of them with the sword: he that fleeth of them shall not flee away, and he that escapeth of them shall not be delivered.” (Amos 9:1)

Amos had a vision of God standing upon the altar.   He commanded that he hit the top of the doorway hard enough to shake the door posts on each side.  The lintel is the cross member that supports the weight of the wall and roof over the door.  It is supported by the doorposts.  Hitting the lintel hard enough to shake the doorposts weakens the entire wall, loosening the posts and lintel from their moorings.   He then commands to cut them in the head and God will slay all of the people.  By hitting the part that is supported by the other people, the government, God will bring down the entire nation.  As the wall falls, even those who try to escape will be caught.    

“Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down: And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence; and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, and he shall bite them: And though they go into captivity before their enemies, thence will I command the sword, and it shall slay them: and I will set mine eyes upon them for evil, and not for good.” (Amos 9:2-4)

When God brings judgment, there will be no place to go for safety.   Digging all the way into hell for a bomb shelter would not enable one to escape God’s judgment.   Neither will starting a colony on the moon or some other planet.  Fleeing to another country or disappearing off the grid will not protect a person.  Events will overtake them as impersonally as a snake biting a passing animal with no concern for who they were.  Surrendering to their enemies to appease them will only result in more of them being killed.  God will be seeking to destroy, and not to bless them.  While this was originally a warning to Israel, we need to remember that it is also an example for us according to I Corinthians 10:11. 

“And the Lord GOD of hosts is he that toucheth the land, and it shall melt, and all that dwell therein shall mourn: and it shall rise up wholly like a flood; and shall be drowned, as by the flood of Egypt.  It is he that buildeth his stories in the heaven, and hath founded his troop in the earth; he that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name.” (Amos 9:5-6)

The things that happen will not just be the natural consequences for their sin.  Those have already been carried out and did not change people’s behavior.  Now God himself is going to take action.  It will be like the whole land melts leaving no stability.  The people will be upset and the problems will continue to grow until they pour over the land like a flood sweeping down the Nile, drowning everything in its path.  It is God that built the different levels of heaven, from the atmosphere and stratosphere to the farthest reaches of the universe.  It was him that placed humanity on earth, and it is him that causes the water to evaporate from the ocean and fall as rain on the earth.  He is God.

“Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? saith the LORD. Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt? and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir?  Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the LORD.  For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.  All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us.” (Amos 9:7-10)

God said that to him there was no difference between the black people of Ethiopian and the Jews of Israel.   He had brought up Israel out of Egypt.  In much the same way the Philistines had migrated from the Nile Deltas area to Palestine as the Egyptian people grew stronger, and the Syrians had migrated southwest from around the Kur river in Armenia.  God will judge and destroy any sinful nation.  He has however promised never to completely destroy Israel.  They will be scattered among all the nations like sifting corn through a sieve, with never a kernel allowed to take root.  All the evil of Israel will be destroyed who think their Jewish culture will not be judged by God and he will not allow them to be punished. 

“In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this.” (Amos 9:11-12)

When the time comes, God will restore the House of David to the throne.  He will rebuild the city of Jerusalem like it was before, as a world center of worship of God.  Israel will once again be a world power governing the nations around her, such as Edom and the other non-Jews that are descendants of Abraham. 

“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt.  And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.  And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God.” (Amos 9:13-15)

In that day, the land will produce abundant crops year around.  They will have to wait for one crop to be harvested before they can plant the next, and planting may be delayed while they process the previous crops.  Crops such as grapes will grow in the mountains where they didn’t survive in the past, and the barren, rocky hills will become productive farmland.   The Jews will no longer be held in other countries but will again occupy their own land, cultivating it for themselves.  They will rebuild the ancient cities, and reap the benefits of their own labors.  Never again will they be taken from their land.  God himself will see to it.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Just A Matter Of Time

Amos 8:1-14

“Thus hath the Lord GOD showed unto me: and behold a basket of summer fruit.  And he said, Amos, what seest thou?

 And I said, A basket of summer fruit.

Then said the LORD unto me, The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them any more.  And the songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day, saith the Lord GOD: there shall be many dead bodies in every place; they shall cast them forth with silence.” (Amos 8:1-3)

Fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, strawberries, peaches, or cucumbers are only available during the summer because they spoil so rapidly.    God was going to treat Israel like they were a basket of summer fruit that was starting to spoil.   The songs of praise in the Temple would be turned into weeping and lamentation because so many dead.  After a while they would become so accustomed to it they didn’t even cry when someone died. 

“Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit?  That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat?” (Amos 8:4-6)

The first day of every month, the new moon, was a special celebration to God.  The Israelite business men resented having to take the new moon and the Sabbath off to worship God.  They just couldn’t wait to get back to business of making money.  They actively cheated, using undersized units of measure and adjusting the scales to weigh light when they were weighing the silver or gold their customers used to pay.  They extended credit to the poor and needy for daily needs, charging exorbitant interest rates, then seizing their property when they couldn’t pay and making them slaves forcing them to buy what no one else wanted.  Then, as now, the worst offenders often made the biggest show of trying to help them against their oppressors.    

“The LORD hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never forget any of their works.  Shall not the land tremble for this, and every one mourn that dwelleth therein? and it shall rise up wholly as a flood; and it shall be cast out and drowned, as by the flood of Egypt.” (Amos 8:7-8)

God promises he will never remember the sins of those who have repented and asked forgiveness.  He also promises he will never forget the sin of those who refuse to repent.   On the Day of Judgment, the records will be opened and the people will be judged according to what they have done.  This judgment will include every word they have said, according to Matthew 12:36.  “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”  It ought to be a concern for the entire land, and would ultimately destroy them.  Like water behind a dam, the pressures will continue to rise until the dam breaks and those downstream are drowned.    Political fixes such as Obama care or the bank bailouts only temporarily delay the collapse, ultimately making things worse because they do nothing about the root problem. 

“And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord GOD, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day: And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning of an only son, and the end thereof as a bitter day.” (Amos 8:9-10)

When the collapse comes, they will be unable to prevent it because God will be causing it.  In that day of judgment at the end of time, the days will be shortened so the sun goes down by noon, and even when it is shining, it will be dark.  The feasts and religious celebrations will become times of sorrow and crying, trying to get God to bless them.  They will be as upset as a family who just lost their only child, with no hope of recovery. 

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.  In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst.  They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, Thy god, O Dan, liveth; and, The manner of Beersheba liveth; even they shall fall, and never rise up again.” (Amos 8:11-14)

Because they have refused to hear God’s warnings, killing his prophets and teachers, God will quit sending them.   The people will have nowhere to turn for advice.  They young will be desperately seeking guidance from God, and the ones who have claimed to have all the answers and a better way will be shown as fools.  

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Amos’ Calling

Amos 7:1-15

“Thus hath the Lord GOD showed unto me; and, behold, he formed grasshoppers in the beginning of the shooting up of the latter growth; and, lo, it was the latter growth after the king's mowings.  And it came to pass, that when they had made an end of eating the grass of the land, then I said, O Lord GOD, forgive, I beseech thee: by whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small.” (Amos 7:1-2)

The Lord showed Amos a natural event to help him understand what God was doing.  Those who produce hay usually get two or more cuttings a year.  If the first cutting is good, it pays the taxes and part of the expenses.  Any profits come from those later cuttings.  In this vision, the first cutting was taken by the government for taxes.  After they had collected the taxes, swarms of grasshoppers devoured the new growth before it got a chance to mature, destroying the crop and leaving the farmers destitute. 

Amos was horrified that it would be that way and begged God to forgive them because Israel was small and would have nowhere to turn for help. 

 “The LORD repented for this: It shall not be, saith the LORD.

Thus hath the Lord GOD showed unto me: and, behold, the Lord GOD called to contend by fire, and it devoured the great deep, and did eat up a part.   Then said I, O Lord GOD, cease, I beseech thee: by whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small.” (Amos 7:3-5)

God heard Amos’ prayer, and promised not to completely destroy everything.  Instead he would send a fire into the crops.  While a fire burns everything that is ripe, the roots of many plants may survive and begin to grow again.  It is not like the insects that keep coming back.  While they would not have much there would be a little for the people.    Again Amos prayed that God would not let it be that bad.   

“The LORD repented for this: This also shall not be, saith the Lord GOD.   Thus he showed me: and, behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand. Am 7:8 And the LORD said unto me, Amos, what seest thou?

And I said, A plumbline.

Then said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more: And the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.” (Amos 7:6-9)

Again God answered Amos’ prayer.  He then used the illustration of a plumb line or level being used to align a wall being built.  Anything that stuck out or wasn’t properly aligned would be cut away, and that section of wall considered finished.  They won’t be given any more chances.  Even the places where Isaac had worshipped God would be deserted.   Their temples and altars destroyed, And God would cause Jeroboam II and his family to be killed. 

“Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words.  For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land.” (Amos 7:10-11)

Amaziah the priest, one of the mainstream religious leaders accused Amos of conspiring against the king and teaching things that were contrary to the good of the country because he said Jeroboam would be killed and the people be taken captive because of the sin.  It was very much like the mainstream religious groups today who accuse those who oppose same sex marriage or who call for restrictions on immigration of prejudice or hate. 

“Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there: But prophesy not again any more at Bethel: for it is the king's chapel, and it is the king's court.” (Amos 7:12-13)

Amaziah told Amos to leave the land because it was the government’s (king’s ) land and they had the right to make their own rules.  If he didn’t like their rules he should go to Judah where they believed like he did, but he could not prophesy in the official churches anymore. 

“Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit: And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.” (Amos 7:14-15)

Amos pointed out that unlike Amaziah, he had not become a prophet because he chose to or because that is what his father or other family did.   Instead, he had been a cowboy or sheepherder, working as migrant worker when the sycamore fruit was ripe.   God had called him from that way of life to go and tell the people of Israel what God said.  To Amos, prophecy was not a career choice or family tradition, it was a calling from God and he was obligated to tell people what God said.   Those who don’t have that awareness of being called of God can focus on other things.    

“Now therefore hear thou the word of the LORD: Thou sayest, Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not thy word against the house of Isaac.  Therefore thus saith the LORD; Thy wife shall be an harlot in the city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line; and thou shalt die in a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land.” (Amos 7:16-17)

Amaziah needed to hear God’s word just as much as the other people, though he thought he already knew.  He was commanding Amos not to warn the people of Israel about the consequences of their sin or try to convince Isaac’s family they were doing wrong.  As a result Amaziah would receive special judgment.  His own wife would be forced into prostitution, and his children would be killed.  The land would be divided up by people who would ignore the ancient boundaries and practices God had established.  Amaziah would die in a land which did not serve God at all, and Israel would be carried out of the land as captives.