Thursday, March 31, 2016


Psalm 4:1-8

“To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm of David.” (Psalm 4:1a)

This Psalm was written specifically to be played on stringed instruments such as the Psaltery.  It is written to the chief string player, and was written by David. 

“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.” (Psalm 4:1b)

In the past, God has delivered David from difficulties, and now he asks him to hear his prayers again and have mercy, not punishing him as he deserves.    

“O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah.” (Psalm 4:2) 

David asks why people insist on turning the things he is proudest of into something to be embarrassed about?  Times when he sought to please God, such as when he refused to let Abishai kill Saul were viewed as a sign of weakness.  Michal despised him for getting so excited about moving the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.    When David tried to show his appreciation for the Ammonite king Nahash’s help, the Ammonites insulted him by their treatment of his representatives. 

People often deliberately misunderstand or distort one’s motives.  They focus on meaningless and worthless pursuits, seeking out people who will compliment them and feed their pride with falsehoods and lies.   In II Timothy 4:3-4, Paul warned, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” 

The word ‘Selah’ refers to a pendulous or hanging twig.  There seems to be no exact English translation of the idiomatic way it is used here, so the translators left it alone.   The implication seems to be that ultimately the hanging twig has to stay within the limits imposed and go along, unable to do very much else.

“But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him.  Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.  Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 4:3-5)

When  the people reject and deliberately distort things, actively seeking teaching that satisfies their desires, they need to understand that God has chosen those who follow him for himself.  He will hear when they cry out to him.  They need to step back and see the amazing power he can exert and make sure they don’t go against him.  Instead they need to make the effort to do rightand trust God to make things turn out right. 

“There be many that say, Who will show us any good?

 LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.  Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.  I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:6-8)

Many people see God as just an uninterested observer far in the distance and assume there is no one who can help them.  David asks that God let his light shine to them, that they can see the joy in his heart.  That joy is greater than all the riches when their business is succeeding and they are getting rich.  He lay down and sleep in peace, knowing God has his back and will protect him.  The World’s ideas about God are gleaned from what they see of God working in our lives.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

God’s Forgiveness

Psalm 3:1-7

“A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.” (Psalm 3:1a)

The story of Absalom’s attempt to usurp the throne is found in 11 Samuel 15-18.  By constantly running down David’s administration and making political promises to fix the problems, he had gained a huge following.  He had enlisted some of David’s best advisors, and was prepared to have David executed, so that David was forced into exile for a little while.  He publically had incestuous relations with several of David’s wives in a deliberate effort to force people to take sides.  It was perhaps the lowest point in David’s career, knowing that Absalom’s rebellion was a direct result of his sin with Bathsheba and murdering her husband. 

“LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me.  Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah.  But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.” (Psalm 3:1b-3)

David was shocked at how many of the people turned against him.  Many of those who followed Absalom did not initially know what was going on until he had gotten them involved in actively rebelling against David.  As a result, they were afraid to go back when they learned the truth.  The story of David’s having Uriah killed had come out, and many people felt God would not forgive him for the murder, and that what Absalom was doing was God’s judgment for David’s sin.    

Many people have a mistaken understanding about forgiveness and Justification.  Receiving forgiveness and being justified does not make it as if we had never sinned.  The effects of that sin will still be felt.  For example, if a person got drunk and caused someone to die in a car crash, being forgiven and justified does not bring the person back to life.  David understood that while God had forgiven him, there would still be consequences for the murder.  His sin had set an example before his children that would not be eliminated by just asking for forgiveness, but he could still trust God to take care of him. 

“I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.  I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me.  I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.” (Psalm 3:4-6)

David understood that God had forgiven him and that he still heard his prayers.  As a result, he was able to sleep soundly, confident the Lord would take care of him.  Even if there ten thousand of his people who were actively seeking to kill him he was not going to allow that fear to control him. 

“Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.  Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.” (Psalm 3:7-8)

God has effectively slapped all those who are judging David, destroying their power to do him real harm.  God  is the only one who can save us, and he blesses those who trust him, even when they have messed up badly.  The only sin he will not forgive is rejecting his son.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Foolishness of Denying God’s Existence and Power

Psalm 2:1-12

“Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?” (Psalm 2:1)

By his sin in eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam made us aware of sin.  Since that time, mankind has been trying to escape the responsibility and guilt that goes with such knowledge. In their efforts, they have tried to eliminate the concept of God who has the final authority.   Romans 1:21-25 describes what they have done in their efforts to negate his power.   “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.  Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

Some groups have tried to make gods of things that they can overpower, while others have denied his existence at all.  The evidence that he exists surrounds us.  Science tells there has to be a cause for everything that happens, and all no amount of time changes that principle.  As a result everything we see in the world around us testifies to the existence of God, including our own bodies.  Romans 1:19-20 informs us, “… that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them.   For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”  To take a position and refuse to consider all the facts only shows ones refusal to accept reality.  Unfortunately, many people make that choice about a lot of things. 

:The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” (Psalm 2:2-3)

In their efforts to deny God and his existence or trying to minimize him into just some animal or idol, even governments have tried to set themselves above God’s authority.  They insist his moral standards no longer apply to them. 

“He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.  Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.  Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” (Psalm 2:4-6)

They look pretty foolish to God, claiming he doesn’t exist, or that he can’t do anything to stop them.  He is offended by their denial of his existence, and will tell them he has set his own government over the world. 

“I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.  Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.  Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.” (Psalm 2:7-9)

God set David as an example of his power, but one day he will give the entire world into the hand of his son, Jesus Christ.  In that day the entire world will worship him, with Jerusalem as their capital.  During the thousand years of his earthly reign.  Isaiah 2:2-4 gives a brief glimpse of what his kingdom will be like.  “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.   And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.  And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

“Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.  Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.  Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” (Psalm 2:10-12)

It would be far wiser on our part to learn from what we see around us.  If we serve the Lord, we can keep from making him angry and turning his wrath against us.  His blessings are promised to all who trust him but as Romans 1:18 warns, “…the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;”

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Godly Versus The Ungodly

Psalms 1:1-6

Modern Christians have adopted a style of music called Praise and Worship, implying that the church did not praise or worship properly until the style was created.  In Colossians 3:16, Paul directed the Christians , “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”  He makes a similar statement in Ephesians 5:19-20.  “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;”

Psalms and Hymns are both songs of praise and worship, dedicated to God.   They are worship and praise because of the content of the music rather than the style.  As Christians, we are commanded to sing Psalms, Hymns, and spiritual songs. This is important because music often affects our emotions in ways that other means of teaching do not.   The book odf Psalms is a collection of religious songs from David’s day, with many written by David himself.  They set examples of what songs that please God and strengthen Christians should be like. 

This very first Psalm contrasts the attitude of the man who pleases God and the one who does not.  It also contrasts the results of the different attitudes. 

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:1-3)

The man who God blesses is the man who doesn’t follow worldly advice, but seeks God’s word.  He doesn’t associate with or go along with those who disobey God’s word, and he doesn’t question God or his authority.  He focuses on what God has said, devoting himself to the study of the scriptures, rather than the study of the writings of the famous theologians and pulpiteers, fulfilling the command in II Timothy 2:15-16.  “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.”

II Timothy 3:14-17 carries this thought a little further.  “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.  

Taking the time to learn all of God’s word provides everything we need to fulfill the commission god has given us.  As a result, the person who does so will be like a fruit tree, such as an apple, planted close to a river where it always has sufficient water.  The leaves don’t dry up, the branches grow strong and healthy and the fruit develops properly. 

“The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.  Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.  For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” (Psalm 1:4-6)

Those who focus on other things, ignoring God’s teachings are like a bunch of dried up leaves the wind blows away.  There is nothing of lasting value in what they have done.  In I Corinthians 3:10-15, Paul describes how the works will be tested. 

“According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.  For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.  If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.  If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (I Corinthians 3:10-15)

Unfortunately many have tried to build everything on something other than the teachings of Jesus and the apostles.  Even their foundation is just a bunch or dried leaves and grass, and when their works are tried by fire, there won’t even be a foundation left.   The Lord will be able to distinguish which is which, and will destroy what those who don’t obey him have accomplished. 

As Matthew 7:20-23 warns, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.  Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

Friday, March 25, 2016

Learning To Empathize

Song of Solomon 8:8-14

“We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts: what shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for?  If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver: and if she be a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar.  

I am a wall, and my breasts like towers: then was I in his eyes as one that found favour. ” (Song of Solomon 8:8-10)

In Genesis 2:24, Adam described the relationship that is to exist between husband and wife.  “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”  Though they separate themselves from their parents and devote themselves to each other, they cannot escape the impact their family has on their attitudes and actions.

A child is born with certain innate physical and mental characteristics, as a result of their genetics.  They may be as strong and un-moveable as a wall around a fortress, or they may be more like a door, yielding easily to the desires and intentions of others.  The family shapes and develops those characteristics, in large part determining what the person will be like when they grow up and how they will be as a mate.  A loving family endeavors to make them the best they can be.  It is the family that determines whether a strong and strong willed child becomes a selfish bully, a rebellious trouble- maker , or a strong caring  member of the community,  The family will impact every relationship including their marriage for the rest of their lives. 

As the person ages, those attitudes and traits become more firmly set as a result of repeated practice, so that what was just an annoyance in their teens or twenties becomes unbearable in their sixties.  Many times the older person’s children are stunned by seemingly out of character actions, not realizing they are only the culmination of years of practice.

The woman in the song recognizes herself as a wall, but recognizes that her lover accepts who she is.   No family is perfect, and it is the individual’s choice how far they choose to carry those attitudes they learned.  She can make adjustments to please her mate, or she can focus on her own desires.   

“Solomon had a vineyard at Baalhamon; he let out the vineyard unto keepers; every one for the fruit thereof was to bring a thousand pieces of silver.

My vineyard, which is mine, is before me: thou, O Solomon, must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred. ” (Song of Solomon 8:11-12)

Knowing what it takes for her to manage her own small vineyard, she can understand a little of how complex Solomon’s job must be trying to manage two hundred workers in his vineyards.   An important part of showing love is learning to consider what the other person is dealing with, rather than focusing only on our own problems.  Though men and women express their feelings differently, they experience the same ones.  Taking the time to think about how something affects us helps us to understand what our mate feels.  When we do, we can adjust our reaction to help them.  Unfortunately, there has been a great deal of effort devoted to emphasizing the differences in expression and ignoring the similarities of feelings in modern society.   

“ Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice: cause me to hear it.  Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices.” (Song of Solomon 8:13-14)

The people our spouses work and associate with pay attention to them and give them affirmation.  If we are to maintain a strong relationship, we need to learn to listen and pay attention to what our mates are saying, realizing most communication is non- verbal.  We need to make them want to come to home to us rather than dreading it.  They need to have that feeling of freedom and enjoyment of a deer on the mountain instead of a constant feeling of rejection and worthlessness.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Balancing Relationships

Song of Solomon 8:1-7

“O that thou wert as my brother, that sucked the breasts of my mother! when I should find thee without, I would kiss thee; yea, I should not be despised.  I would lead thee, and bring thee into my mother's house, who would instruct me: I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine of the juice of my pomegranate.  His left hand should be under my head, and his right hand should embrace me.  I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, until he please. ” (Song of Solomon 8:1-4)

When a couple come together in marriage, there are always conflicts as a result of their different family cultures.  The woman wishes she could have known him from his very birth sharing his childhood experiences and having the same teaching and examples to minimize the conflicts.  Then she would know how to meet his desires even better, and would be even more able to accept his love and embraces without reservation.  She loves the thought of cuddling with him and doesn’t want anyone to disturb them. 

“Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? I raised thee up under the apple tree: there thy mother brought thee forth: there she brought thee forth that bare thee. ” (Song of Solomon 8:5)

She had been brought up in a loving home with few problems, yet loving and being loved has dramatically changed her.  Her whole attitude has changed and it is visible as she comes from a walk in the country or dessert with her lover’s arm around her.  Even her family hardly recognizes her.  

“Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.  Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned. ” (Song of Solomon 8:6-7)

Sarah and Abraham had lied to Abimelech about Sarah being Abraham’s wife.  As a result he got involved with her, and was hurt to learn the truth.  In Genesis 20:16, he told her, “…behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other: thus she was reproved.”  Her love for Abraham should have prevented her from even looking at another man, and should be obvious enough to keep others from thinking she would consider it. 

Love is a powerful force in person’s life, and jealousy is a cruel emotion to inflict on another person, especially one you claim to love.  It is almost like torturing them by shoving their arm into a fire.  Fortunately, love is so strong that no amount of water can quench it, and as I Corinthians 13:8 says, “Charity never faileth…”  Contrary to popular belief, people do not simply fall into and out of love.

The sex act produces a powerful emotional bond that is often mistaken for love, but real love involves making a choice.   This is obvious when Paul commands, “Husbands, love your wives,”  in both Ephesians 5:25 and Colossians 3:19.  In Titus 2:4, he commanded the older women to “…teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,” making it clear that love is not something that just happens.   

When both the sexual bonding and the will are involved the love that results is nearly unbreakable.  If either is neglected, the love is greatly weakened.  The strongest defense against an ungodly, promiscuous lifestyle is the development of a strong healthy love relationship, as described in I Corinthians 7:2-5.  “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.   Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.  The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.  Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.”

For the proper relationship, there must be both the strong love or benevolence in which we choose to show the respect and concern for the other person, and the proper sexual element.  If either is lacking the marriage is weakened dramatically.    Unfortunately, in both the religious and the secular world, there is a tendency in modern society to focus on one or the other, leaving the relationship out of balance.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Expressing Love

Song of Solomon 7:1-13

“How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince's daughter! the joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a cunning workman.  Thy navel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor: thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies.  Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins.  Thy neck is as a tower of ivory; thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim: thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus.  Thine head upon thee is like Carmel, and the hair of thine head like purple; the king is held in the galleries.  How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights!

This thy stature is like to a palm tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes.  I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof: now also thy breasts shall be as clusters of the vine, and the smell of thy nose like apples; And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine for my beloved, that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak. ” (Song of Solomon 7:1-9)

Proverbs 27:5 tells us, “Open rebuke is better than secret love.”   Solomon makes it a point to remind the Shulamite woman how much he loves her and how attractive he finds her.  He describes various aspects of her appearance and figure, then expresses his wish to touch and hold her.  Kissing her is one of the most satisfying things he can imagine. 

Unfortunately, as a relationship matures, there is a tendency stop expressing these feelings, assuming that our mate already knows how much we love them.  Far too often we only talk about the things we don’t like and after a while our mate begins to doubt our love for them.  Though they still love us, they cease to express their love, feeling that we don’t care.  This leads to our feeling they don’t care and the problem grows, feeding on the actions of both parties. 

In order to maintain that first love we once experienced, it is necessary to focus on the things we find attractive and pleasing rather than the things that are wrong.   We can never sort out all the things that are wrong and properly fix the blame, but by focusing on things that we find attractive, we can move those irritants to the background where they have less impact.   We make the final decision as to the attitude within our relationship.   Too often the decision is made by default, copying what we saw our parents or others do rather than making a conscious choice.  Once again Solomon has shown us the proper way. 

“I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me.  Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages.  Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth: there will I give thee my loves.  The mandrakes give a smell, and at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved. ” (Song of Solomon 7:10-13)

Assured of his love, the woman wants to go with him, doing the things he enjoys.  Instead of focusing on going to the opera or to some big event, she wants to go camping, go out and work in the garden with him.  It is in these mundane, everyday activities that real love is best communicated.   

The modern focus on getting more things and participating in parties and romantic getaways often creates an emotional illusion that prevents demonstrating or developing real love.  This is shown he constant breakups and remarriages of those involved in the entertainment industry and the very rich.  If romantic dinners, exotic vacations and nice homes produced real love these people would never get divorces or switch partners.  Clearly the entertainment industries depiction of love isn’t very satisfactory. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Unity of Love

Song of Solomon 6:1-13

“Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee. 

My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies.  I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies.” (Song of Solomon 6:1-3)

The other women asked the lady where her husband is, and she stated that he had gone down to the garden to refresh himself, working among the beds of spices and gathering lilies.   She recognizes his emotional need.  She then pointed out something that is commonly ignored in our day.

In Genesis 2:24, God had just instituted marriage and he said, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”  As a result of the sexual union they become as emotionally intertwined and interdependent as if they were a single individual, and Psychologists say that losing a mate, whether through death or divorce is as emotionally devastating as losing an arm or leg.  Even a short, unhappy relationship takes at least a year to heal, and the scars remain far longer.   

For the physical body to function properly it is necessary the various parts work together.  If the legs refuse to go where the rest of the body directs them so can obtain food, the body slowly starves.    In the same way, if one spouse decides their desire and needs takes precedence, the relationship begins to die.   I Corinthians 7:4 states, “The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.” 

I Corinthians 6:16-17 describes a similar connection between the Christian and the Lord.  “What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.  But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.”

“Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners.  Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me: thy hair is as a flock of goats that appear from Gilead.  Thy teeth are as a flock of sheep which go up from the washing, whereof every one beareth twins, and there is not one barren among them.  As a piece of a pomegranate are thy temples within thy locks. ” (Song of Solomon 6:4-7)

Once again she describes the beauty she sees in her mate.  He is as pleasant as the most beautiful cities in Israel, and as emotionally upsetting as an army in full dress.  His looking at her causes her emotions to run amok.   She is fascinated by his hair or his teeth, and the skin of his temples is totally distracting. 

“There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number.  My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her. The daughters saw her, and blessed her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her.  Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners? ” (Song of Solomon 6:8-10)

There are lots of other women available, both rich and poor, but her lover sees only one.  She is reserved solely for him, raised by a loving mother.  The other women respect and admire her.  She is as beautiful as the moon or clear as the sunlight. And as upsetting as an army in full array. 

“I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded.   Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib.   Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee. What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies. ” (Song of Solomon 6:11-13)

He had gone down to the garden to see how things were growing.  Suddenly he found himself thinking about her, filled with love for her and wanting to get back to her.  Seeing her again would be as exciting as seeing two armies coming together.   His little time away has only emphasized his love for her.   

Monday, March 21, 2016

An Unintentional Hurt

Song of Solomon 5:1-16

“I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.” (Song of Solomon 5:1)

The man has gone into his garden to eat and to enjoy things he likes and to gather some to share with his spouse, bringing her sweets and perfumes, then comes to her door and finds her asleep. 

“I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.  I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?” (Song of Solomon 5:2-3)

She heard her husband knocking but she was sleepy and had a hard time getting woke up.  When she did, she didn’t want to get up because she wasn’t dressed and she didn’t want to get her feet dirty, so for a few moments she didn’t answer.   Far too often, we get so caught up in our own comfort and convenience that those who love us end up turning away because they don’t feel free to disturb us.  Sometimes, they get the feeling other things matter more than they do. 

“My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.  I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock.  I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer. ” (Song of Solomon 5:4-6)

She heard him trying to get the door open, but she had locked it and he couldn’t.  She suddenly realized she wanted him to be with her, so she got up and opened the door, but by the time she got around to it he had gone elsewhere, not wanting to disturb her sleep.  Now she went looking for him.   It takes a special effort to overcome such unintentional hurts, and this lady made the effort.  She recognized her part in his going elsewhere.   People who will not admit their actions or words may have hurt the other person tend to blame him for feeling hurt, and make no effort to correct it.    

The watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me.  I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love.” (Song of Solomon 5:7-8)

She was out after curfew, and the police picked her up.  They were not very understanding and her feelings were hurt.  She asked the other women who were out to look for her husband and tell him wanted him to come, even if it woke her up.   She wanted him to understand how much she loved him.
“What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us? ” (Song of Solomon 5:9)

The other women don’t understand why she’s worried about that man, after all she is beautiful and there are other men who could surely make her happy.  What made him so special?   It was the same attitude I experienced when my wife left me, that there were lots of other women so I should just forget about her.  It shows how little the world understands about love.   

“My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.  His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven.  His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set.  His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.  His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires.  His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.  His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem. ” (Song of Solomon 5:10-16)

How do you explain why you love someone?  The lady describes how she sees him, as extremely handsome.  To her, he is better looking than ten thousand other men.  He is altogether lovely to her, and most importantly, she loves him and he is her friend.  All those other men are just not him.   

Friday, March 18, 2016


Song of Solomon 4:1-16

One of Satan’s most effective tools is discontent, and it is very destructive in a marriage.  Hebrews 13 4-5 instructs the Christian: “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.   Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”  All advertising is designed to make you dissatisfied with what you have, and cause one to covet the newest thing available.   One advertising executive is quoted as saying sex sells, so sell sex.  As a result most advertising has a sexual element, from a very attractive spokesperson or romantic setting to suggestive innuendo and openly sexual behavior.   

As Christians it is critical that we not allow Satan to gain power over us in this area.  In Proverbs 5:18-20, Solomon tells us how to avoid the temptation.  “Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.  Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.  And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger?”   It shows how we ought to view our mate.  Urban cultures may find his descriptions almost insulting, but to people who live in an agricultural society they have tremendous meaning.   

“Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.  Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them. ” (Song of Solomon 4:1-2)

To him her eyes are as gentle and pleasant as those of a dove, and her hair is as beautiful to see as a herd of goats streaming off the side of a mountain.  Her teeth are as white and beautiful as a bunch of freshly sheared sheep, who had just been washed for a show, with no missing or broken teeth. 

“Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.  Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.  Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies.  Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.  Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.  Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions' dens, from the mountains of the leopards.”(Song of Solomon 4:3-8)

Her skin is beautiful to him and she has a pretty mouth, and more importantly, he enjoys listening to her.   He sees her body as a beautiful thing, and longs to touch and hold her.   To him there is nothing he would change.    He would love to have her accompany him to see the things he has seen. 

In our world the idea of beauty had been taken over by the fashion and beauty industries, with the result people expect their mates to look like the most popular models or actors.   People who don’t meet the cookie cutter standard are viewed and made to feel as if they are less valuable.    Both sides need to learn to accept that they are made in the way that pleases God and not constantly fret that they or their mate doesn’t measure up to the world’s ideal.  Until we do, we are not experiencing or demonstrating real love.   

“Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.  How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!  Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon. ” (Song of Solomon 4:9-11)

She has filled and taken control of his heart, and just a glance from her or a glimpse of a necklace around her neck can set his heart pounding.    Being loved by her is more pleasant than anything he could ever want.   He doesn’t feel she is always putting somebody down or griping at him.  We live in a day where deliberate rude and offensive speech is passed off as just being honest, and saying “I don’t mean to be rude” only emphasizes that one knows he is being rude.  It quickly becomes very annoying and discouraging, especially when directed at oneself.  Because it is so common today, it is easy to begin to look for things to be offended at.   Both sides need to be aware of both problems and demonstrate their love by avoiding them.

“A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.  Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard, Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices: A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.  

Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits. ” (Song of Solomon 4:12-16)

His wife is like a private garden, the beauties and pleasures of which are reserved for himself alone.  Being with her is relaxing and refreshing, deeply satisfying.  It is exactly what the wife wants to be for her husband, someone he wants to come home to, rather than dreading coming home.    

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Demonstrating Love

Song of Solomon 3:1-11

“By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.  I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.

“The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?  It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me.  I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.” (Song of Solomon 3:1-5)

When she realized her husband was not in bed, the woman decided to go see what was wrong.  She was aware that something was not normal.  She went hunting for the person she loved, even walking the streets to find him.  Along the way she met the police and asked if they had seen them.   Finally she found him and stayed with him until he finally was able to relax and go back to sleep.  When he did she made a special effort to make sure he was not disturbed until he was rested.    Real love is concerned about the things that trouble their mate.  They don’t just blow it off and go back to sleep or whatever they were doing.  They realize the things that matter the most are often the hardest to talk about and are willing to wait.

“Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?  Behold his bed, which is Solomon's; threescore valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel.  They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night. ” (Song of Solomon 3:6-8)

She recognized the pressures on her husband.   He couldn’t always be at her side, coming like a puff of smoke when he wasn’t expected and their relationship was always affected by his job.  She realized the importance of what he did and the need for constantly being on call and supported him in it. 

“King Solomon made himself a chariot of the wood of Lebanon.  He made the pillars thereof of silver, the bottom thereof of gold, the covering of it of purple, the midst thereof being paved with love, for the daughters of Jerusalem.  Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart. ” (Song of Solomon 3:9-11)

It is not clear why the word here was translated chariot.  So far as I can tell this is the only time it is used in the scriptures, and it refers to a Palanquin or litter similar to those seen in other cultures.  It was constructed of wood,   and overlaid with gold and silver with a purple top.  It was made especially for going among the people.  They could see Solomon in all his regal attire, like people flocking to see the president’s motorcade.  It was a thrill to his wife to see him thus and remember when they were married. 

In our modern world there is a tendency to get so caught up in our own careers and activities that we are oblivious to our mate’s concerns.   We hear a lot about the need for more communication in marriage.  They usually mean we need to talk more.    Most communication is nonverbal.    When we jump to conclusions about what they mean instead of listening, we communicate we really aren’t interested in what they mean.  Walking out of the room or turning on the vacuum cleaner when the person is trying to explain their feelings or telling them how it’s going to be   conveys the same message.    The problem is not a lack of communication, but with what is being communicated. 

Each time we do such things we push them farther away, and eventually they quit trying to share their feelings.   It is not that they don’t want to share, but that they feel we resent having to talk to them.  Clearly what we are doing matters more than they do.  The marriage grows increasingly unsatisfactory and often ends in divorce.  Just taking the time to listen and showing concern for their feelings demonstrates our love. 

When we consistently ignore what God says, we cease to hear the Holy Spirit speaking and our relationship with God deteriorates just like what happens in the marriage.    As often happens, we blame God for not speaking to us rather than realizing we are pushing him away.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Watch Out For Little Foxes

Song of Solomon 2:1-17

“I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.

“As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.” (Song of Solomon2:1-2)

Both singers describe the woman as native wildflowers.  An artist was troubled that her paintings of wildflowers didn’t look quite right.  A more experienced artist pointed out that she was painting them as perfect flowers while the real ones had pieces eaten away by insects and petals that had been damaged by the wind and frost.  A big part of their beauty actually comes from those flaws that make them unique.   That they are surrounded by stickers and weeds emphasizes their beauty. 

We are often told love is blind.  The truth is that real love sees the person’s flaws and foibles as part of the person and loves them anyway.  Infatuation sees the person as perfect and usually turns away when they get close enough to see the flaws.  Until we can accept and appreciate those flaws, understanding where they come from, we cannot truly love the person.    The best part is that God loved us while we were still sinners and his enemies, before we bloomed.   

“As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons.  I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.  He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” (Song of Solomon 2:3-4)

The woman’s lover is not just another man.  He is as different as an apple tree surrounded by juniper and pine trees.  He stands out even from a distance.  She can be content sitting in his shade and enjoying the fruit he produces, and has no desire to look for something more.  She hardly even sees them, as Abimelech told Sarah in Genesis 20:16, “…behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other…”

Contrary to what the poets and songwriters have said, Christ is not he rose of Sharon or the lily of the valley.  He is not just an imperfect flower among a bunch of thorns.  He is the apple tree in the middle of the forest, and if we love him we hardly even notice what the world offers.     

“Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love. So 2:6 His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.  I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please. ” (Song of Solomon 2:5-7)

When we are sharing periods of intimacy with one we love, we want tit to go on and on, and resent anything that interrupts it.  In love, the focus is not on the sex act itself, but on the touching and holding and making emotional connections.   Sexual gratification is only a pleasurable side benefit.   By focusing on the sex act itself, the world has missed out on real love, with even the sex act soon becoming meaningless. 

Unfortunately, the focus on emotional highs and activities has had a similar effect on the church.  People are no longer experiencing the day to day pleasures of intimacy with Christ.  Before long even the emotional highs get old and they begin to look elsewhere. 

“The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.  My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, showing himself through the lattice. ” (Song of Solomon2:8-9)

When we are deeply in love, just the sight of the loved one gives a thrill of pleasure, like seeing a deer crossing a field or peeking over the fence at us so that we hardly dare move for fear of driving him away.   

“My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.  For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.  O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.” (Song of Solomon 2:10-14)

When we are truly in love we want to share everything with our beloved.  Even a dandelion in the lawn or a bird singing is so moving and the budding fruit trees and garden crops hold such promise and seem so wonderful, and the best part is sharing them with someone you love. 
“Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes. (Song of Solomon 2:15)

It is fairly simple to build a fence to keep large animals like cows or horses out of your garden.  Unfortunately, little foxes can go through holes in the fence the cows can’t.  In addition they may dig under or climb over it, and the nicer the and more productive the garden is the harder they will try to get in.  They must be caught and dealt with individually.
In a similar way, it is fairly simple to guard a love relationship, whether for the Lord or for a mate from big things such as adultery or turning to another religion.  It is far harder to protect against the little things that annoy us.  As one marriage counsellor described it, far more divorces start with frustration over things like which way the mate puts the toilet paper on the roller or how they fold the towels than with some major event.  Such attitudes are very invidious and can sneak into even the best relationships.   Like the little foxes, once they get in, they continues to multiply until the relationship is destroyed, if they are not dealt with.   

“My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.  Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether. ” (Song of Solomon2:16-17)

It is stealing to take away something that belongs to somebody else, whether you sell it or give it away, or just lock it up where they can’t get it.  When we mate, we become one flesh and no longer belong to ourselves.   We no longer have the right to act unilaterally.  We have taken on responsibility for our mate’s wellbeing as well as our own.   We have become co-dependent in that both lives are dependent on the actions of both parties.  Unfortunately, psychologists have redefined the word to refer only to the feeding of negative emotions, giving it a bad connotation.    

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

First Love

Song of Solomon 1:1-17

The song of songs, which is Solomon's. ” (Song of Solomon 1:1)

The Song of Solomon is a love song.   It is written in the form of a duet between Solomon and his lover, with each expressing their love for the other.   While it describes a real love story, it is an allegory illustrating the relationship of God with his people.   In Revelation 2:1-5, God warned the church of Ephesus that he was not pleased because they had left their first love.   The Song of Solomon demonstrates that first love.    

“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.  Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.  Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee. ” (Song of Solomon 1:2-4)

When a young couple first falls in love, they just want to be held and kissed.  Nothing else compares with being together, and they are thrilled just to hear their lover’s name spoken.    They are thrilled to be invited to activity they would normally avoid like the plague simply because they will be together.  They are filled with love for each other. 

“I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.  Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept. ” (Song of Solomon 1:5-6)

A book I read described love as being happy with the other person just as they are.   The woman describes herself as sunburned and her hands are rough from working in the fields and not being able to care for herself like others might.  She doesn’t have perfect makeup or finely manicured hands.  She doesn’t think of herself as a great beauty, but she knows she is attractive.  She is not the trophy wife or the best girlfriend ever, she is just herself.    He loves her for who she is rather than what she does or what she looks like. 

“Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?

If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents.   I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh's chariots.  Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold.  We will make thee borders of gold with studs of silver. ” (Song of Solomon 1:7-11)

Knowing he can’t leave his job, she wants to come and spend the noon hour with him.  She doesn’t want to spend her time with others.    Because he loves her, he tells her how to find him.  To him she is the most beautiful woman alive, even though others may think she is less beautiful.    He finds her as exciting and attractive as crack military troop on parade.  Her cheeks are like jewels and her neck is a beautiful as a gold necklace.  He looks forward to buying her some jewelry to compliment her looks. 

Though we are aware of all our imperfections, Christ sees us as perfect.  He is looking forward to the time when he can give us the things he wants to share. 

“While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.  A bundle of myrrh is my wellbeloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.  My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of Engedi. ” (Song of Solomon 1:12-14)

To the woman, everything about Solomon is attractive.  The only desire is to spend time with him.  They are drawn together like bees to a sweet smelling fi. 

“Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes.  Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed is green.  The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir. ” (Song of Solomon 1:15-17)

To the man she is so beautiful, with the soft gentleness of a pigeon or dove.  It is such a pleasure to be with her, just laying out on the grass under the trees.   Their joy comes from being together, not from what they have or their surroundings.  

Monday, March 14, 2016

Israel will Again Experience God’s Love.

Zephaniah 3:1-20

“Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city!  She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the LORD; she drew not near to her God.  Her princes within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; they gnaw not the bones till the morrow.  Her prophets are light and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law.” (Zephaniah 3:1-4)

God’s judgment is coming on Jerusalem.  They have polluted themselves with various idols, and have ignored sin.  They’ve taken advantage of others people and refused to listen when God tried to straighten them out.  The rulers and leaders are like lions, just doing as they please, and the lawyers and judges are like a bunch of wolves waiting for a weak person to take advantage of, not content to just attack those who have done wrong.  Their evangelists and preachers focus on frivolous subjects and cannot be trusted and the worship leaders treat the church like a theater or sports arena. 

“The just LORD is in the midst thereof; he will not do iniquity: every morning doth he bring his judgment to light, he faileth not; but the unjust knoweth no shame.  I have cut off the nations: their towers are desolate; I made their streets waste, that none passeth by: their cities are destroyed, so that there is no man, that there is none inhabitant.  I said, Surely thou wilt fear me, thou wilt receive instruction; so their dwelling should not be cut off, howsoever I punished them: but they rose early, and corrupted all their doings.” (Zephaniah 3:5-7)

God is a righteous God who will not do wrong and does not change.  Every day, he shows what is right, but the wicked refuse to acknowledge their sin.   God has destroyed entire nations for their sin, leaving fortresses in ruins and their streets deserted.  Entire cities are completely uninhabited.  God has done this in hopes they would respect or fear him enough to change in an effort to save their lives but they ignored his every effort, determined to go their own way, and Judah has done the same thing.

“Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the LORD, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.   For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.” (Zephaniah 3:8-9)

As a result, Judah will not see God’s blessings fully until the time of Christ’s kingdom, when he draws all the nations together for destruction and pours out his judgment on the earth.  Then he will restore the people to a single nation where all speak the same language and all of them call on the Lord in full agreement, with no confusion.
“From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed, shall bring mine offering.  In that day shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings, wherein thou hast transgressed against me: for then I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride, and thou shalt no more be haughty because of my holy mountain. ” (Zephaniah 3:10-11)

In that day worshippers of God will come from beyond Ethiopia to worship God in Jerusalem.  They will no longer harbor a sense of guilt for turning away because God will destroy those who have rebelled, thinking God wouldn’t punish them.  The Jews will no longer5 hav e pride because God’s temple is among them. 

“I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the LORD.  The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid. ” (Zephaniah 3:12-13)

The people who survive in Israel will be people who have suffered for their faith and are aware of God’s concern for them.  They will not deliberately do wrong like Israel has done in the past.  Instead of lying and tricking people, they will focus on just living for God, and they will not have to deal with threats from others. 

“Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.  The LORD hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the LORD, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more. ” (Zephaniah 3:14-15)

Judah and Israel will be able to rejoice in God’s blessings, because they will no longer suffer his punishment.  Their enemies will have been destroyed, and Jesus Christ will be their king, living among them.  They will never again face the evil they have in the past. 

“In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack.  The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.  I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, who are of thee, to whom the reproach of it was a burden. ” (Zephaniah 3:16-18)

In that day, they will no longer need to be constantly on guard or worry about being defeated.  Christ himself will be among them to protect them, enjoying his time with them and sharing his love.  He will bring them together and take away their sorrow. 

“Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee: and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out; and I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame.  At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you: for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the LORD. ” (Zephaniah 3:19-20)

They will be restored to their own land and their enemies wiped out.  They will no longer be ashamed or try to hide their Jewish heritage, because it will respected in the day God sets them free and re-establishes them. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Coming Destruction of Judah’s Enemies

Zephaniah 2:1-15

Gather yourselves together , yea gather together, O nation not desired; Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, before the day of the LORD'S anger come upon you.  Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD'S anger.” (Zephaniah 2:1-3)

Judah was a nation the other nations hated.   God’s judgment was looming but it had not yet fallen.  Zephaniah recommended that they act on the warnings before the prophecies came to pass.  If they would turn their attention from themselves to God, and obey him, they might yet escape the Judgment because God is a forgiving God. 

“For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation: they shall drive out Ashdod at the noon day, and Ekron shall be rooted up.  Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites! the word of the LORD is against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant. ” (Zephaniah 2:4-5)

The Philistines had occupied the along the Mediterranean coast and never been driven out of Israel.  God warns that he will destroy them so completely there will be none of them left in the land.  The Palestinians of today are not living in the traditional Philistine lands. 

“And the sea coast shall be dwellings and cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks.  And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah; they shall feed thereupon: in the houses of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening: for the LORD their God shall visit them, and turn away their captivity. ” (Zephaniah 2:6-7)

God will give the traditional lands of the Philistines to the descendants of Judah, because God will one day return Judah to their land. 

“I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the revilings of the children of Ammon, whereby they have reproached my people, and magnified themselves against their border.  Therefore as I live, saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, even the breeding of nettles, and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation: the residue of my people shall spoil them, and the remnant of my people shall possess them.  This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the LORD of hosts.  The LORD will be terrible unto them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen. ” (Zephaniah 2:8-11)

The Moabites and Ammonites were descendants of Lot.  For centuries they had attempted to destroy Israel and Judah.  God said they would be as completely destroyed as Sodom and Gomorrah had been.  Ultimately all mankind, even those from the far flung islands will realize there is no god but God himself. 

Though the name of Ammon is perpetuated by the Capital of Jordan, Amman, the Ammonites and Moabites were defeated by the Babylonians and their land was eventually claimed  by the Nabateans, the people who built the city of Petra.    

“Ye Ethiopians also, ye shall be slain by my sword.  And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like a wilderness.  And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations: both the cormorant and the bittern shall lodge in the upper lintels of it; their voice shall sing in the windows; desolation shall be in the thresholds: for he shall uncover the cedar work.  This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me: how is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in! every one that passeth by her shall hiss, and wag his hand.” (Zephaniah 2:12-15)

Ethiopia had been a world power and attacked Judah in Hezekiah’s day, with over a million men.  They would later be ruled by the Persian and Greek Empires.  The Assyrian Empire would be destroyed and the city of Nineveh turned into an uninhabited wilderness where wild animals lived in the ruins and people herded sheep.  The beams and wood work would rot away.  The Babylonians destroyed Nineveh, and it faded into obscurity.  At the time of Zephaniah’s prophecy, Nineveh was still one of the largest and most powerful cities in the world.  They were confident nothing could ever destroy their power, and no longer paid any attention to God or his prophets. 

If Judah would repent and turn to God, they might escape that judgment.  

Thursday, March 10, 2016

God’s Judgment Will Affect Everyone

Zephaniah 1:1-18

"The word of the LORD which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.” (Zephaniah 1: 1)

Josiah was Judah’s last good king.  He reigned just before 600 BC.  His father was a wicked king and his sons would emulate their grandfather, leading to the defeat of Judah, first by Egypt, then eight years later, by Babylon.  Like the other prophets, Zephaniah is warning what is about to happen.   I have not specified exact dates, because records discovered in  Babylon indicate the traditional historical dates are inaccurate, perhaps by as much as forty years. 

“I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the LORD.  I will consume man and beast; I will consume the fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea, and the stumblingblocks with the wicked; and I will cut off man from off the land, saith the LORD.” (Zephaniah 1:2-3)  

When God wipes out the land, he said he will leave it desolate, with even the fish and birds wiped out.  The population will be completely removed, along with all the various idols that they have followed.  Four times in the next twenty years, huge invading armies would descend on the land, devouring all the food and killing the game before Nebuchadnezzar finally razed Jerusalem and the surrounding cities to end the constant rebellion, moving the people to Babylon, and Telabib, in present day Syria. 

“I will also stretch out mine hand upon Judah, and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and the name of the Chemarims with the priests; And them that worship the host of heaven upon the housetops; and them that worship and that swear by the LORD, and that swear by Malcham; And them that are turned back from the LORD; and those that have not sought the LORD, nor inquired for him.” (Zephaniah 1: 4-6)

Even in Josiah’s day there were those who worshipped Baal, the different stars and planets, and the Zidonian god, Milcom, even while participating in the Jewish religion.   Others had just rejected all religion, or just become indifferent.  God would destroy all of them. 

“Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord GOD: for the day of the LORD is at hand: for the LORD hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests.  And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD'S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king's children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.  In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters' houses with violence and deceit. ” (Zephaniah 1:7-9)  

When God’s judgment fell, Zephaniah and the people who served God were not interfere or try to prevent it.  It was God who would be punishing the leaders for adopting the religions and cultures of the other nations.  At the same time, he would punish the common people who were involved in crime and murder. 

“And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD, that there shall be the noise of a cry from the fish gate, and an howling from the second, and a great crashing from the hills.  Howl, ye inhabitants of Maktesh, for all the merchant people are cut down; all they that bear silver are cut off. ” (Zephaniah 1: 10-11)

God’s judgment will affect everyone in the area, from the fishermen on the sea, to the shepherds and cattlemen ibn the hills, to the merchants downtown, to the bankers and stock traders.  The entire economy will be affected, and the survivalist hiding in the hills will not escape. 

“And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil.  Therefore their goods shall become a booty, and their houses a desolation: they shall also build houses, but not inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, but not drink the wine thereof. ” (Zephaniah 1:12-13)

There will be a thorough search of the city using candles or flashlights to find all the hiding places where people and valuables might be concealed.  They will find all the people that have believed God is powerless or doesn’t care.   The property will be taken by the searchers, and the homes left in ruins.  All their efforts to make things better will be wasted. 

“The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.  That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness,  A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers. ” (Zephaniah 1:14-16)

The day of God’s judgment was very close.  When it came, those who were considered strongest would cry in desperation because everything they had built and enjoyed was taken away, and their seemed to be no hope as both the small towns and major cities were destroyed. 

“And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung.  Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD'S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land. ” (Zephaniah 1:17-18)

People will be so upset they are unable to decide what to do, because of the results of their sin.  They will be killed indiscriminately, and their bodies treated like just a piece of garbage.  No amount of wealth will protect them, but the entire nation will be destroyed because of God’s anger. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Habakkuk’s Prayer

Habbakkuk 3:1-19

“A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth.   O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.” (Habakkuk 3:1-2)

Habakkuk had seen visions of what was to come for Judah.  He takes time to pray, and his focus is upon Shigionoth, straying or not following the rules.  The same Hebrew word is used in the title of Psalm 7.  Having heard God’s warning, he was worried about what was coming and asked God to revive his efforts to get the people’s attention  before his judgment fell, and that he would show mercy when he sent judgment.   

“God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran.  Selah.  His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.  And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power.  Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet.  He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting. ” (Habakkuk 3:3-6)

Teman was one of the Edomite cities, and Paran was the part of the wilderness where Israel spent forty years.  When God brought Israel into the land of Canaan, he went before them, revealing his glory like light and demonstrating his power, sending pestilences, and demonstrating his power with fire.  His power was seen in the shaking and burning on Mount Sinai, and in the earthquake  that destroyed Korah and his followers. 

“I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction: and the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble.  Was the LORD displeased against the rivers? was thine anger against the rivers? was thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride upon thine horses and thy chariots of salvation?  Thy bow was made quite naked, according to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word. Selah. Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers.  The mountains saw thee, and they trembled: the overflowing of the water passed by: the deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high.  The sun and moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of thine arrows they went, and at the shining of thy glittering spear. ” (Habakkuk 3:7-11)

The Midianites and the inhabitants of the wilderness had feared Israel.  God had enabled them to cross the Red See and the Jordan River on dry ground.  God protected Israel and gave them water from the rock, forming a river.  The sun and moon stood still while God gave a victory.  Habakkuk is reviewing some of the miraculous things God had done in nature. 

“Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the heathen in anger.  Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed; thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck. Selah.  Thou didst strike through with his staves the head of his villages: they came out as a whirlwind to scatter me: their rejoicing was as to devour the poor secretly.  Thou didst walk through the sea with thine horses, through the heap of great waters. ” (Habakkuk 3: 12-15)

God had done equally amazing things in the nations around them, giving Israel victories against far more powerful countries.  When the Canaanites united against Israel, God had destroyed all the leaders, enabling Israel to take the land.  Even Egypt’s efforts to capture them ended with God escorting Israel across the Sea then drowning the Egyptian army. 

“When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops.” (Habakkuk 3: 16)

When he heard God’s impending judgment, Habakkuk was upset at his stomach to think of God’s power being turned against Judah.  He was totally overcome with the realization that there was nothing they could do to prevent his judgment.  His only hope was that God would protect him when it came. 

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.  The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments. ” (Habakkuk 3: 17-19)

When God’s judgment falls, the economy will collapse and famine will sweep over the land.  The various fruit trees will not bear fruit, and the flocks and herds of livestock will starve.   Habakkuk will continue to trust in the Lord to care for him and bless him, even while the rest of the people are struggling to survive. 

Habakkuk’s attitude is very much the attitude Christians should have about God’s judgment on our lands, including during the Tribulation if we are here to go through it.  We should be troubled at what those around us will suffer, but confident that God will carry us through safely, no matter how bad it may become.