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Thursday, July 21, 2011

It Came To Pass

God's Biblical HeroesJudges 1:1 opens the book of Judges on a very somber note.  It is no doubt a day of national mourning for the people of Israel.

Joshua, their leader in battle, is dead.  Joshua is an interesting character.  He is one of those second tier Bible characters that is more well known than most but not as well known as some.  Joshua was a great man.  He is one of only two men, the other being Caleb, who actually lived in Egypt.  Their whole generation died in the wilderness because of unbelief that resulted in disobedience.  This is always the case.  It was Joshua and Caleb of the twelve spies that brought back a good report.  They did not underestimate the challenges before them but they highlighted the promise of God before them. They were, Joshua was, a man of faith.

Joshua had been Moses' right-hand man.  He was his assistant.  The bible says he was Moses' minister.  His skills for leadership had been nurtured in service to another man.  Joshua is always lurking in the background.  After the death of Moses, Joshua receives a call from God.  Joshua 5:13-15  It was a personal visitation from God on a par with a burning bush experience.

Joshua led the people over the Jordan river and to victory over Jericho.  There were many other victories after that initial one.  Joshua had taken to heart the admonition of the LORD to, "be strong and of a good courage."  Joshua was a great man who probably does not get his due for one simple fact.  He followed Moses.  I suppose it could be argued concerning Moses that a greater man has never lived.  Moses is clearly hovering around the top of the first tier of bible characters.  So Joshua lives out his days of service in the shadow of Moses.  Wouldn't it be nice if we all were afforded such an opportunity!

Yet we get to Judges 1:1 and we are told, "Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, . . . ."  I read that and I can only think, it always does.  It always comes to pass.  We should be thankful that is always comes to pass.  What we learn is God's work is not dependent upon one man.  It is God's work and he uses men.  It is always good for us to remember that we are instruments in his hand.  Our desire should be to be "fit for the master's use."

Men die and God continues his work.  Great men die but God's work does not!

Abraham died and God's program moved forward.
Jacob died and God's program moved forward.
Joseph died and God's program moved forward.
Moses died and God's program moved forward.
Joshua died but God still lives and thus it can be written "and it came to pass."

Therefore, let us soberly contemplate:
When those before us died, "it came to pass."
When we die it will, "come to pass."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Turn??

File:U-turn.png - Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaIf my people, which are called by my name, shall . . . turn from their wicked ways . . . .
2 Chronicles 7:14

This is one of four things that God indicated the children of Israel would have to do should they find themselves in a backslidden condition and consequently forfeiting the promises of God.

The other three are: humble themselves, pray, and seek my face.  Turning from their wicked ways is last not because it is least important but because it is impossible without the prerequisites of humility, prayer, and seeking his face.  We are a long way from turning and thus we turn to redefining.

Wickedness tends to get redefined in every generation.  Churches over the last few decades have been far too willing to strike a deal with the world.  We don't want to offend, or be a bigot, or seem radical, or be uncharitable, or be guilty of legalism or isolate ourselves, oooorrrr be a disciple of Jesus Christ!  We too often would rather have the world happy with us than Jesus!

If we simply redefine wickedness we discover we never have anything from which to turn!  How handy!  All those wicked people out there need to stop their sinning, but we are not wicked.  Women and young ladies paint themselves up like Jezebel but we are not wicked.  We dress like the cocktail crowd and go to the dance but we are not wicked.  We go to movies and support the Hollywood crowd but we are not wicked.  We watch movies and programs on TV that would embarrass our grandparents but we are not wicked.  Women dress like men and men act like women but we are not wicked.  We spend hours a week doing what we want but have no time to pray and seek his face but we are not wicked.  We take our clothes off and go the beach or swimming pool but we are not wicked.  We add Christian to our music labels and call it good but we are not wicked.

Isaiah 5:20 says woe unto them that call evil good.  We never do that?!

If we really want the country to turn then we must turn.  We are waiting on the politics to turn.  We are waiting on the economy to turn.  We are waiting on the morality to turn.  We are waiting on the courts to turn.  We are waiting on the preacher to turn.  We are waiting on church members to turn.  We are waiting on something or someone else to turn.

God is waiting on us to turn.  He is waiting on me to turn.  He is waiting on you to turn.  We all should find something from which to turn, some wickedness.  Just admit it for what it is and turn from it.

Have a good and holy day!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Theocracy In Decline

A week ago Sunday evening I began a series through the book of Judges entitled Theocracy In Decline.  I had been thinking, reading, and preparing for the start of the series for at least a couple of months.  I am excited to be started.  I love to preach from the OT narratives.  There are so many practical lessons to be learned.

Judges chronicles the fits and starts of the only true theocracy the world has ever known.  The people being governed were God’s chosen people the Israelites.  The very ones, whom he had delivered from Egypt with an outstretched hand, led through and provided for in the wilderness, and promised them the land.  Their King was the true God, creator of heaven and earth.  They had a perfect law.  They had an established religion.  It was all right, except their hearts.


It was a theocracy in which the king (God himself) raised up men to lead them, or in the case of Judges men to deliver them.  But, there were no monarchs, no ruling families.  The tribe of Levi and the family of Aaron is about the closest we get to that.  The people were to be devoted to God and their leaders were to direct their devotion to God.  The problem is the people struggled with being devoted to God.  As such we have the familiar declaration beginning to occur in Judges 17:6, “There was no king in Israel.”  It was a phrase which ended several times with the statement that, “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”

It is not technically that there was no king, but the King was not being sought and obeyed, so effectively it was as though there was no king in Israel.  It devolved into anarchy.  The last several chapters of the book bear out this reality when the religious and moral decay of the people is paraded before our eyes.

I found myself asking after reading the book several times, why Judges??  The question became pronounced and I realized before I started the series I would need to answer that question in a way that I could be confident of my conclusion.  Certainly it was not given just to unfold the exploits of a few men.  Of course it was not given for its entertainment value although it is certainly entertaining.  Judges as much as any book of the Bible is a book of war, intrigue deception, seduction, murder, civil unrest, pride and self-promotion.  It lacks nothing on that front.

The book covers a time period of approximately 400 years.  But it cannot be for the purpose of just filling up the space of 400 years.  There was 400 years between Malachi and Matthew when nothing is said.  There is about 400 years between Genesis and Exodus.  My point is it would not have been unheard of to allow 400 years slip by with little notice.

There is a lot going on in Judges.  It is not all bad.  There are some good things that happen here, as you well know.  Even some great things.  Some great men, men of faith are presented to us here.  There are some great acts recorded here.  I intend to give these men and women their due.  There were also some foolish things done by some great men.  Why Judges??  The answer is found in two passages one in Joshua and the other in 1 Samuel.

Joshua 24:14-18 – Therefore will we also serve the LORD; for he is our God.

1 Samuel 2:12-22 – Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.

Judges explains how we get from the people saying we will serve the LORD for he is our God to the sons of the High Priest being sons of Belial and not knowing the LORD.

Judges explains how we get from the state of things at the end of Joshua to the state of things when we get to the beginning of 1 Samuel.  It teaches us about the downward spiral.  It gives us a 400 year overview.

A 400 year overview that begins with the death of a great man.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Authority!

authority link building ideasLuke 20:1-8

In this passage a question rises about authority.  Who has authority?  What is the origin of the authority?

The chief priests and scribes wanted to know from whence Jesus received the authority to do "these things".  At the end of the previous chapter he had for the second time in about three years cleansed the temple.  Then in the first verse of the present chapter he assumed the place of a teacher in the Temple.

The chief priests and scribes obviously believed they had authority to question Jesus' authority.  Jesus, instead of answering them outright, put another question on the table.  It was a question that also addressed the issue of authority.  It was a question about the baptism of John.  " . . . was it from heaven, or of men?"  Did John's baptism have divine authority or merely human authority.  It mattered!  It was a question that put the religious leaders on the horns of a dilemma.  To answer one way was to condemn themselves.  To answer another way was to be condemned by the people.  Answer:  We cannot tell whence it was.

Jesus seizes on their indecision and trumps their perceived authority by refusing to answer from whence he derived his authority.  The fact that Jesus engages the religious leaders concerning the issue of authority indicates that he understood the importance of establishing authority.  In this case it was not Jesus who exceeded his authority by acting but the religious leaders by asking.  In an attempt to call Jesus on the carpet they had the rug pulled out from under them.

Issues of authority are a relevant part of our every day life.

Clan life
Civic life
Church life
Craft life

Who has authority?
From whence is the authority derived?
What, if any, are the limits on authority?
Are there competing authorities?
Are there over-lapping authorities?
What are the boundaries of jurisdiction?
Is there a higher authority?

How we answer these questions concerning the different areas of life will determine our decisions.  The choices we make will ultimately be judged by He who has all authority and whose rule has unlimited jurisdiction.

Friday, July 08, 2011

As I Was Commanded

Flower policy keeps Vietnam Vet from honoring wife's grave ...Ezekiel 24:15-18 - Also the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, behold, I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke: yet neither shalt thou mourn nor weep, neither shall thy tears run down.  Forbear to cry, make no mourning for the dead, bind the tire of thine head upon thee, and put on thy shoes upon thy feet, and cover not thy lips, and eat not the bread of men.  So I spake unto the people in the morning: and at even my wife died; and I did in the morning as I was commanded.

If we slow down and read the book of Ezekiel carefully we will find a number of things God told Ezekiel to do that leaves the 21st century Christian a tad troubled.  Before us is one of those places.  It is easy to read past it and fail to grasp the gravity of what Ezekiel has been instructed to do.

It can be summarized in short order.  God was going to take Ezekiel's wife and he was instructed to show no sign of mourning.  This is incomprehensible to our minds and we find ourselves on the verge of questioning God.  But to do so would not be productive and assumes that we could possibly know better than God.  This is not a conclusion with which I am comfortable.  He is in heaven and I upon earth.  He is eternal and I have been around 48 years.

While it may not be productive to question God's reason for the seeming madness the Scriptures answers the purpose for which God had Ezekiel do this.

Verse 24 - Thus Ezekiel is unto you a sign: according to all that he hath done shall ye do: and when this cometh, ye shall know that I am the LORD GOD.

This explanation may not do much to comfort our hearts but it does inform our intellect.  We at least know the purpose even if we don't understand the reason.

Ezekiel in so many cases became God's living object lesson!  Ezekiel, even though we are far removed from the intent of this prophecy concerning the nation of Israel, still leaves a lesson for us in his behaviour.

Verse 18 is striking.  So I spake unto the people in the morning: and at even my wife died; and I did in the morning as I was commanded.

Ezekiel had been commanded to do something that was very unnatural.  He was called upon to suppress the mourning for his wife.  He was in effect to go about his day as though nothing had happened.  He was not to weep, cry, or mourn.  He was to get dressed and go about his business.  This is a remarkable thing that he is being called upon to do.

What is Ezekiel's response.  . . . . I did in the morning as I was commanded.

Lord help me this morning and every morning to do as I am commanded.