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Weekly Word

Entries in Fear of the Lord (6)

Tuesday
Apr262016

Mocking the Messiah

Luke 23:35-43.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on April 24, 2016.

At the lowest point in his life, Jesus is hanging on the cross while people gather around him and mock him.  I am reminded of Psalm 1:1 where it says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of mockers.”  The Psalm goes on to state that the wicked, sinners, and mockers would be blown away like the chaff.  But the righteous man will endure like a tree planted by a river.  In every age we are tempted to join this group that mocks the way of the Lord.  We do not need to look at places in the Middle East to find it because we have it here in our own country.  All around the world, Jesus and his followers are ridiculed and mocked by one group or another.  It is important for believers to restrain themselves and not respond in kind.  Rather, we must learn to live out the love of Christ in the face of those who do not understand because this is their only hope.

Most People Mocked Jesus

The crucifixion of Jesus was the darkest day in the history of Israel.  We can think about Joseph and how he was treated by his brothers; that was a dark day.  We can think about the making of the golden calf at the foot of Mt. Sinai; that was a dark day.  How about their refusal to enter into the promise land?  That was a dark day.  Their rebellious kings and eventual destruction by Assyria and Babylon were also dark days.  But all through those times was the hope that Messiah would come some day and fix everything.  Thus the murder of Messiah becomes the darkest day of all. 

In the midst of this, the Gospels portray the people, leaders, soldiers, and one of the criminals as mockers.  Now it is bad enough to be unjustly executed, but to have people mocking you makes it even worse.  The Bible warns believers against the act of mocking others (as noted in Psalm 1).  To mock someone is to scorn and ridicule them.  Typically it employs things like taunts, mimicry, and making jokes of someone’s situation.  Even when a person is suffering justly, it is generally bad form to mock them and sets us up for a fall of our own.  Mocking seeks to pull a person down, and then when they are down it seeks to pile on top of them.  When we participate in mocking, we do not realize the manner of spirit that we are aligning ourselves with.  Mocking does not lead anyone to repentance.  It does not stir up life.  Rather it leads to destruction and takes delight in it.

Luke reveals first that the leaders mocked Jesus for his ability to deliver.  He was known as a great deliverer because of his healings and exorcisms.  He had saved people physically, mentally, and spiritually through his actions and teachings.  Thus thousands touted the amazing deliverer known as Jesus.  Yet, the leaders throw this back into his face.  If you are such a deliverer, let’s see you deliver yourself from this!  Mockers often demonstrate logic and reason.  However, it is always used for a wicked purpose.  Instead of asking Jesus why he doesn’t save himself, they use the fact that he doesn’t against him.  We now know that if Jesus saved himself he would be simultaneously condemning us.  Perhaps we should recognize that the ultimate truth that lies behind all of our questions to God, is that somehow it would bring more harm to us than good.  When we say, “God, why don’t you do (whatever it is you want),” somehow it is because he is bringing something better to us.  This is where faith in our loving Father in Heaven becomes critical.  Why doesn’t God deal with all the evil in the world?  It is because he is giving room for them to repent.

The soldiers also mocked the Kingship of Jesus.  They made great fun of the fact that they were crucifying the King of Israel.  What kind of king let’s himself be killed?  The kings of this world will sacrifice their whole army before they let themselves be taken, but not Jesus.  To soldiers, this was a foolish king.  Even the giving of the sour wine to quench his thirst seems to be done in a mocking way.  Perhaps they did so as if they were servants serving the king his wine.  Either way, they make it clear with their mocking tone that they do not respect such a king.

Lastly, with one of the criminals the mocker is really only concerned about himself.  “If you are the Christ, save yourself and us.”  The emphasis should be placed on the “us.”  This criminal could care less about Jesus.  He mocks only because it makes him feel better about himself.  Jesus represents one of those goody-two-shoes that he despises.  This taunt betrays the fact that he only cares about himself.  Even if Jesus did deliver himself, why would he save this criminal?  He clearly is not a follower of Jesus.  Mocking is tempting because it gives the person a quick fix for feeling better about themselves.  Yet, at the same time it increases their judgment before God.

But Some Believed On Jesus

One of the criminals did not mock Jesus.  In fact the mocking of the other criminal sparks a rebuke from him.  Perhaps this was a mercy of the Father to his Son.  Jesus is doing this to save people and yet he is surrounded by mocking.  Yet, in the midst of this, a man declares his faith in Jesus.  Yes, the disciples would also believe in Jesus.  But only this criminal publically declared faith in Jesus that day.  Of course, he had nothing to lose and everything to gain.  Perhaps that is our problem; we often have too much to lose.

Notice that the criminal mentions the fear of the Lord.  Up to this point neither criminal had feared God enough to follow his plans.  It wasn’t until he was nailed to a cross and dying next to the righteous Jesus that this criminal began to fear God.  He had avoided it all his life, but now he couldn’t.  Within hours he would leave this life and stand before the Creator.  This scared him.  We are told that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  Until a person recognizes that they are going to be judged by God for how they lived this life, they do not operate out of true wisdom.  Have we become far too quick to mock and ridicule one another?  Even in the church we can play the mocker when we think we can get away with it.  Is this because we don’t think God will do anything about it, in this life or the next?  We should beware.  Such actions and thoughts are foolish.  We will have to give account for them before the Lord.  If you want to be blessed then avoid the decision chair of the mockers.

In Jesus both religious and secular mankind demonstrate their judgment of God.  They sit in the mockers chair and judge God as if they are the measure of justice.  Just as the world was unjustly punishing Jesus, so the world makes judgments against God and his followers.  These judgments are unjust and untrue.  The second criminal petitions Jesus for grace in the face of death.  He cries for help from the only one who appears to be able to do anything for him.  He has a great judgment hanging over his head and he deserves it.  The way he words his appeal asks for grace and makes a statement of faith.  “When you come into your kingdom, remember me.”  Death bed salvations may not sit well with our sense of justice.  However, when you weigh it against the fact that we all deserve death for our sins, it doesn’t matter.  What truly matters is that a person gets out of the seat of the mockers and prostrates themselves before God.  Have you done this?

The gracious words of Jesus to the sinner are “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”  Paradise is the word that is connected to the Garden of Eden in Genesis.  Of course that Paradise is gone.  However the book of Revelation points us to another Paradise in Revelation 2:7.  “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”  Jesus is essentially saying that the Garden of Eden is not missing, it is with the Father, and it will come back to earth some day.  Those who overcome the temptation to join the mockers of this world will enjoy it with Jesus and the Father.  What we see the criminal doing here is called repentance.  Instead of continuing down the same old path, he turns his back on his mocking lifestyle and turns to Jesus in faith.  Repentance turns from the way of sin and towards the path of righteousness that Jesus shows us.  Such a person will always receive the mercy and love of God as its reward.  Let’s be a people who shun the chair of mockers and humble ourselves before one another and our Lord.

Mocking Messiah audio

Tuesday
Nov052013

Obstacles To Jesus

Today we are going to be in Luke 5:17-26.  Here we will see that there are obstacles that get in the way of us finding Jesus, or being touched by him.  Some of these obstacles are physical and some of them are not.  Some of them have to do with ourselves and others are outside of us.  However, it is faith that overcomes all obstacles in order to be touched by Jesus.  Without faith in God we will never press through these obstacles, nor receive from Jesus what God has for us.

Now this may sound like all the work depends on us.  However, the Truth is that we are only cooperating with the immense work that God has already done.  The Son of God had come to Earth and took on the additional nature of a man.  He had lived a sinless life and had come speaking the Truth and healing.  Thus we should never over estimate the greatness of our actions.  Yet, faith is necessary.  Without faith it is impossible to please God and without it no one will see God.  Let’s look at this story.

The Crowd

In verses 17-19 we find Jesus in an unnamed town and he is teaching.  It says that the Spirit of the Lord was present to heal and yet there was a crowd that had formed around him within the building and outside.  The success of Jesus had itself become a wall around him.  This physical issue of Jesus is pointed out in John 16:7, “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.”  The Holy Spirit is not limited to a physical body and can be everywhere at once.  While Jesus walked this Earth, he was limited to a body and only so many people could hear him and get close enough to touch him.  This day it was a problem for a man who was paralyzed.

We also know that the crowd is a mixed crowd.  It is mixed with those who need healing and those who just want to see it.  It is mixed with those who believe in Jesus and those who are looking for means to oppose him.  In fact wherever there is a crowd around Jesus, even in today’s churches, it is mixed in motives.  Some who are taking up room around Jesus do not believe and get in the way of those who do want to believe.  Some who refuse to be touched by Jesus physically block those who are trying to get near.  Is it possible that satan could crowd Jesus with deceivers and false disciples in order to discourage those who truly want Jesus?  You better believe that it happens.  Just remember that not everyone crowding around Jesus and His Church really want Him.

Much of the crowd only want things from Jesus.  They may not be actually resisting him like the Pharisees and Scribes.  But neither do we only want him.  The problem is not that we want things or even healings.  The problem is when our desire to get these things gets in the way of really hearing what Jesus is trying to say to us.  Do I want things from Jesus more than I want Him?  If I received no healing would I still trust Him?  If I have to choose I choose Jesus.  That is what faith is.  It is holding to Jesus because only He has the Words of Life.

Now even though the crowd can be an obstacle and should be challenged to make a choice, the person on the outside also needs to make a choice.  Are you going to let the crowd around Jesus keep you from Him?  Are you really going to say to Him when you stand before Him in eternity, “You didn’t make it easy enough for me.  Or, It was too hard.”  Really?  Do you remember the woman who had a feminine problem where she was bleeding every day?  She had wasted all her money on doctors with no cure.  Decades later she is poor and weak.  Jesus is surrounded by a crowd.  Who could expect her to be able to get through the crowd?  However, she wanted a touch from Jesus so bad that she pushed through the crowd just to touch the hem of his garment.  It is interesting that in that story (Luke 8) we are told that the crowd “thronged” Jesus.  It literally means to suffocate or choke.  I wonder if God is sometimes choking and suffocated by the unbelief and lack of faith of the crowd that has pressed in around Him today, looking for things from Him more than wanting just Him?

Yet in this story the man is paralyzed.  He can’t even do what that poor, weak, bleeding woman could.  Here we see that we do need friends.  Sometimes the obstacle is in me.  But as we explore this aspect, keep in mind that no matter how much we need friends, we need Jesus more.  The best friends are those who help us to get to Jesus.  So don’t let the presence of the crowd or the sin of the crowd keep you from Jesus.  Do you want Jesus?  Then press through the crowd and reach him.  Don’t hold back.

Physical Conditions

Now let’s focus on the fact that the man is paralyzed.  His health is an obstacle to getting to Jesus.  Now bad health can range from paralysis, zero ability, to the sniffles, only hampered.  If I only have small physical issues then I need to find ways around them and press through.  Yet, in this case that won’t work.  He needed help.  This is true if we are the paralyzed man or we are the friends.  People need help to come to Jesus.  No one who has ever been saved became so without the help of people.  So don’t let physical issues keep you or your friends from pressing through to Jesus.

God put us in families with neighbors who should be our friends so that we can care for one another.  His clear command to love our neighbors is best done by doing whatever it takes to help them to know God’s provision for them and receive it.  The heart of the Great Commission (Go into all the world…) is first helping our immediate friends and family and then scoping out to the ends of the earth and those we do not know.  No one will come to Jesus without someone going out of their way to help them.

Now not all physical obstacles are in our body.  The building itself was an obstacle.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  What is the problem and how can we get around it?  It was no easy task but the solution that came to them was to lift him up onto the roof, break through the roof and lower him down in front of Jesus.  This is probably not the only thing they could have done, but it is what these friends of the man did.  The key is not the way, but the minds and hearts that partnered together in order to help a friend.  It is a holy task to take the time to discover what it is that keeps and individual from Christ.  IT is a holy endeavor to work to remove those obstacles.  Neither is it a pretty sight.  It will involve hard labor and difficulty.  But these are the sorts of things that love does.

Am I such a friend?  I may not have any paralyzed friends who need me to cut through a roof.  A real friend helps his friend to overcome those obstacles within and without in order to get to Jesus.  Yet, we are going to see that this man was not just a sick man who couldn’t get to Jesus.  He was also a sinner.  Yet, his friends helped him anyways.  Compassion.

Sin

The story builds up to the moment where the man is lowered before Jesus, obviously sick and in need of healing.  Yet, Jesus says the unexpected, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”  What?  I came to be healed of paralysis not have my sins forgiven.  Don’t you know we are in public?  I didn’t want anyone to know I was a sinner.

Sin is our biggest obstacle to reaching Jesus.  O, sure the sin of OTHER people is an obstacle.  But, here we are looking at his own personal sin.  He was a sinner.  He wanted his paralysis fixed, but he needed his heart fixed.  Now there are some people who love to keep others in their sins.  These Pharisees and Scribes who were cynically watching Jesus that day were some of the biggest sinners.  They didn’t need physical healings but they needed their sins forgiven.  They did need touched by Jesus.  They could care less about the suffering of the people and that Jesus was healing them.  They didn’t see a miracle and rejoice.  Instead they went back to their plotting room and said, “We’ve got to kill this guy, or everyone is going to follow him.”  They didn’t care about their brothers and sisters physically and only pretended to care spiritually.  Jesus really does care about both.  Watch your own heart.  As Christians we can become so self-satisfied that we no longer have compassion for those broken by their sins.  We are called to help overcome these obstacles, not rejoice that you don’t have them.  The first way we can do that is to cease sinning against them and then love them despite their sin and try to bring them to Jesus.  Don’t settle for friends and family who are stuck in sin.  Fight for their souls in the name of Jesus.

“Which is easier to say?”  Jesus knows what they are thinking when he tells the man his sins are forgiven.  There is an irony in this question.  If you were a godly person it would be harder for you to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” because that is God’s job.  Yet, in a sinful world and as a sinful person, it would be easier to say that you can forgive sins because it can’t be seen.  Forgiveness of sins is an invisible thing.  But physical healing is obvious.  Now Jesus could have healed the man and then forgiven his sins.  But he does it the other way around for emphasis.  We think his greatest problem is paralysis.  In this world we strive to fix real problems, yet just not the most important ones.  Sin was the man’s most obvious problem to God.  If you could choose to have only one thing from God, you would be a fool to choose physical health.  The man’s amazing healing was Jesus way of proving he could forgive sins.  In fact, all of the healings Jesus did were not because he was on a personal mission to wipe out all sickness and disease in the world.  It was always a means to help the faith of those who were hearing him teach amazing things.  Now it wasn’t true because Jesus did a miracle.  The miracle was true because what Jesus was saying was taught all throughout the Old Testament.  The miracles were not supporting a man who was contradicting the word of God, but one who was fulfilling it.  “Behold, the lamb of God!”

This man left glorifying God that day and for good reason.  But notice the affect on the crowd.  Yes they were amazed, but a fear of the Lord had also settled upon them.  “What manner of man is this who forgives sins and proves it by healing paralysis?”  Signs can help us.  But if we do not have a fear of God no multitude of signs will persuade us.  Because we do not fear God, we become lazy in reading God’s Word and internalizing it.  We become lazy and resistant to listening to the Holy Spirit.  And then, when the Truth appears we kill it.  Why?  We do so because we have been saying no to Truth in so many little ways until we are insulated from Jesus.  Friend, don’t let obstacles keep you from Jesus.  He has already done the heavy lifting all you have to do is believe enough to push through these wet paper bags that remain in the way.

Obstacles to Jesus Audio

Thursday
Sep052013

The Sun of Righteousness

We apologize that there is no audio for this sermon.

As we reach the last chapter of Malachi, we are given the assurance of God’s Judgment.  Just as chapter 3 guarantees that the promised Messiah would come, so chapter 4 unequivocally states that the promised “Day of the Lord” would come.  In similar ways we were told that the Messiah’s coming would be a “cleaning” time and the Day of the Lord would be a time when the wicked are removed.

So let’s look at this prophecy of the Day of the Lord.

God Has An End For The Proud

Vs. 1 refers to “The Day.”  Throughout the prophet you find the long form of this phrase, “The Day of the Lord.”  It refers to a time when God rises up and judges the world.  It is sometimes shortened to just “The Day,” but the context always makes clear that the same issue is at hand- Judgment Day.  Just as we would use D-Day in our society and it is clearly understood, even when used metaphorically, The Day of the Lord was understood to be a day of raising up the righteous and putting down the wicked.  Though it may seem like it, God’s judgment never tarries forever.  He has a particular end planned for those who refuse to turn from their wicked ways.  It would be well for our generation to recognize this timeless truth that God’s judgment always comes.  Thus what goes around comes around.

Now verse one particularly refers to the proud.  This term refers to their puffed up nature.  They are filled with the air of their own ideas or the ideas of other men.  This causes them to stick out among other people.  However, when judgment comes they will wish that they didn’t stick out so much.  When God’s judgment comes, the wicked are not as substantial and big as they seem.  Like a balloon filled with hot air, so they are quickly deflated and destroyed.  They are removed quickly and swiftly in whatever means God sends.  A great picture of this for our era is a man like Hitler.  He makes a big substantial impact upon this world but, when judgment comes, he and all his plans are gone in a day.

The imagery of an oven is used.  God’s judgment is like an oven that burns up the wicked.  No matter how great the tree in this world, it is nothing when the judgment of fire begins to reduce it to ash in a great conflagration.  In fact the burning is so great that no branch or root is left for them.  They are completely removed from the equation with nothing to remain.  Now compare this to the words of Jesus, “I am the vine and you are the branches.  He who abides in me and I in him, bears much fruit.”  “If anyone does not abide in me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”  Thus Jesus employs this metaphor as well for his followers.

Now we can see how pride is connected.  It was pride that kept many in Israel, and especially the religious leaders, from even connecting to Christ, much less remaining in Him.  Those who reject God’s offer of salvation are left to go into Judgment Day swelled up with their own pride.  It will not go good for them.  You can save yourself such a demise by putting your faith in Jesus and what He did at the cross, rather than the empty ideas that you or other “great men” have come up with.

Now some will point out that these words were written to Israel and were fulfilled in  70 AD when Jerusalem was sacked by Rome.  Was it fulfilled?  If you go through the passages regarding “The Day of the Lord,” you will notice that even though much of the passage is to Israel, often it scopes out to the surrounding nations, and ultimately to even the whole world.  To help us understand this I would ask you to picture the type of telescopes that can collapse to a small length.  Usually they are made up of 3-5 pieces that look alike, but differ in their size.  The smallest piece fits into the next larger piece, which fits into the next larger piece, etc…  The warning of judgment is not just a single prophecy whether for Israel in AD 70 or for the whole world in AD 2013.  Rather it is a reminder of a principle that applies to every scope of our existence: God will come and judge.  I need to take this truth to heart as an individual.  However, we need to take this to heart as a community, and as a nation, and as a world.  Thus the Day of the Lord did come for Israel.  In that Day the righteous went out and were blessed while the wicked were cast down and all their great pomp turned to ash.  This does not mean there is no more day of the Lord.  In fact the Apostles not only warned of the Day of the Lord before AD 70, but through the Apostle John we are warned after it, that the Day of the Lord for the whole earth is still coming.  God will come and He will execute judgment on those whose pride cause them to cast His ways aside and plunge into wickedness.  God warned that this present time of the Gentiles will end with a Day of Judgment.

A New Beginning For Those Who Fear God

In verses 2-3, God turns to those who followed Him.  Though they lived in a time when wicked men walked in pride and held the reins of power, and though they lived in a time when righteousness made you a target while wickedness helped you get ahead, this appearance would not last.  God would eventually intervene.  This “Day of Truth” would reveal the reality of the power of the wicked and the “good” they had obtained.  When the wicked were being destroyed under judgment, God would bring the righteous through it and give them a new beginning.  In fact, beyond this life, we need to understand that the “bad” we have endured in this life is not the totality of our experience.  God has great good for those who trust Him and fear Him.  There is a new beginning.

Malachi uses the imagery of a dawning day.  A new sun will rise on that morning and it will be a sun that shines its light on all the wickedness.  It will be a day when the righteous are exalted and the wicked are removed.  There will be no big struggle.  Darkness will be gone as quickly as you turn the light on in a room.

Notice that this sun of righteousness is personified when it states it will rise with healing in HIS wings.  Thus the light is connected to the coming Messiah.  His coming will be like the rising of a righteous sun that brings healing to those who have trusted God, the land, even the whole earth.  This healing includes physical but is intended to speak to those deeper wounds of our heart and soul.  In fact, the physical healings that Jesus did were to be a sign that He in fact could heal the wounds of their soul, especially the deep, festering wound of sin.  Don't get too hung up on the word "wings."  If the context was talking about a bird or building then it might be a good interpretation.  However the word points to the extremities of something.  Thus in context the messiah would have healing in his "hands" or the "hem of his garment."  This again points to Jesus and his ability to heal.

Now many conspiracy theories would jump on a verse like this and say that Judaism and Christianity just borrowed their theology from the ancient sun religions and this is proof.  However, the truth is that the ancient religions were the twisting and “progressive” ideas of men in collusion with fallen angels.  What were they twisting?  The original truth that God gave Adam, Eve, and Satan in Genesis 3:15.  The day will come when the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that Satan would have a vested interest in co-opting this idea and trying to twist it to his purposes.  And, it doesn’t stretch the imagination to see that men who quickly grew tired of waiting on God, had itching ears for “better interpretations.”  The ancient sun religions were cheap copies of the prophecy God gave at the fall and from demonic sources.

Lastly it will be a day of release.  The image is that of a young calf who has been cooped up in a pen.  When they are released they go jumping forth, kicking, and mooing their delight.  When it speaks of trampling the wicked, the image is that the wicked have become so insubstantial that they are like ash on the ground, or salt in the street.  In the present day, no one would dare tread on the wicked.  But in the Day of Judgment their great pomp, power, and presence will be reduced to ash as the righteous go forth simply kicking it up like a child.  The beauty of this is in its equity and simplicity.  The wicked are like the chaff that will be blown away and not remembered, but the righteous shall join in a new day and be given new strength and joy.  This is our heritage and our inheritance.  Let’s walk in faith!

Tuesday
Aug202013

Complaining Vs. Encouraging

Today we will look at Malachi 3:13-18 and in this section we see two very different kinds of people.  We could call the first group complainers and the second group encouragers, but it goes deeper than that. 

Have you ever recognized how God doesn’t work on our time schedule?  It is easy for us to become discouraged by what we see or don’t see happening around us.  When you add to that a sense that God should be doing something on your behalf, well, it is exponentially worse.  So what do we do with these discouragements?  First we should recognize that these times are testing us to reveal what really is in our hearts and what we will do with it.  Will I allow God to reveal the junk in my heart and then will I ask Him to scrape off the scum that rises to the surface in these “melting pot” times?  That is the question.

Complaining Harshly Against God

Complaining and murmuring were common descriptions of Israel when they were in the desert.  Perhaps you may think that this is a good thing that helps make things better.  But, God said that it is destructive and its source is unbelief, or lack of trust.  Of course, most of the Israelites perished in the desert because of their unbelief.  It is interesting that the very thing they were complaining about happened because of their complaints and those who didn’t complain made it through the desert.  All of Israel went through the same difficult circumstances, but most let unbelief rule in their hearts and complained harshly or strongly against God.  In these moments it is made clear that no amount of evidence to the contrary would make these people trust.  They had a trust issue and instead of seeing that and letting themselves be taught to trust by a loving God, they chose to fight against Him and brought upon themselves the very thing they accused Moses and God of doing: killing them in the desert.

Malachi first points out that they had come to believe that serving God was useless.  It is not clear how public these complaints were voiced.  Perhaps they were mostly thought within the heart, and perhaps voiced in small rooms with few people.  However, this belief was infecting their service to God.  Now we can see how they would continue to obey the command to offer a sacrifice for sin, but then ignore the command that it be without blemish.  They felt it was useless anyways.  However, they continued the “religious sham” because of what it would gain them in the eyes of others.  In their minds, there was no hope in continued service to God.  They no longer looked to God and His Way as an answer, but rather to their own devices and schemes.  Then it gets more specific in the passage.  They believed there was no profit in serving God.  They were not as materially prosperous as they wanted to be.  Meanwhile they could see others who were not obeying God’s command seemingly prospering.  They also believed that it was useless to serve God despite their “mourning before the Lord.”  Apparently they were impressed with their own cries for God to prosper them.  They felt that their fasting and weeping before God to give them material prosperity should have been acceptable to God.  But this wasn’t fixing their “situation” either.  They had made the mistake of thinking that God would accept mere, external duty without inner faith.  They also had made the mistake of thinking God should always materially prosper those who serve Him.  This childish mentality fails to see how times of weakness physically or financially can actually help our character to become more like God and develop spiritual understanding.  It can only see that God is not giving them what they want or think they deserve.

When we let a complaining spirit become the dominant character of our inner life it will blind us to all the blessings we already have and it will spoil any blessings that God desires to give to us.  In verse 15 God reveals some wrong-headed conclusions that they were making.  They are wrong-headed because even though they appeared to be true in the short term, God had clearly stated in His word they were not true.  Unbelief always leads us to live by conclusions that are contradictions to what God has said.  But if we fear God we will not give into such conclusions that are made by our flesh in times of trial.  Instead we will recognize the trap of these “feelings” and cast ourselves on God.  They had come to believe that the proud are blessed.  From God’s Word it is clear that the proud are actually on God’s “Take Down” list.  Pride here is that sense of arrogance and inflated ego.  They saw that the arrogant, inflated people were “getting all the pie.”  They confused this with God’s blessing.  Listen, I see the Christian church in all of this.  Many teachers have risen in the land that promote a gospel that says when God blesses you, you will have money, wealth, and fame.  This is a terrible understanding of God’s blessing.  It is terrible because it messes with the minds and faith of those who are going through difficult times.  It helps them to embrace ideas that are contradictory of God’s Word.  The proud are not blessed.  God will put them down and He will raise the humble.  So where might you want to be?  Next, they believed that the wicked are raised up.  Raised up is the picture of promotion to positions of stature.  Those who sin were being promoted to positions of power politically, economically, and eventually religiously.  But those who try to serve God were being “passed over” and weren’t getting ahead.  Now, again it is all about time.  We want it yesterday and if it isn’t here we are on the phone, sending emails to the complaint department, trying to force our way.  Listen, God can handle your questions, but He won’t put up with unbelief and a heart that embraces contradictions to His Word.  If God has raised up the wicked it is so that they will stick out for judgment.  It is the tall grass that get cut in the day of mowing.  Now what do you want to be?  When a society is under the judgment of God it is practically a curse to be raised up.  Although in the example of Daniel we are shown that God is able, for His purposes, to raise up a righteous man and protect him through times of judgment.  In the end we become envious of the wicked over things that leverage our trust away from God.  Next, their conclusion was that those who tempt God, do so with no consequences.  This phrase “tempt God” refers to intentional blatant disregard for God’s Law.  It tempts God to do something about it.  But when it looks like nothing has happened others looking on quickly think, “why am I still obeying the law?  I’m falling farther behind and they are getting ahead without consequences.”  The next step is to join them in their wickedness, casting off restraint.  These people have come to believe that nothing bad will happen by breaking God’s Word, and quite the contrary, now believe that something good will come from breaking God’s Word.

In all of this we see our own country.  In America many will give lip service to God in politics, economics, and religion.  But, where the rubber meets the road, God is not an answer.  And the person who tries to point to God will be laughed out of the room and have no votes on Election Day.  Wake-up!  We are killing ourselves by giving into such wrong-headed conclusions.  Such conclusions are destroying our country and bringing the judgment of God upon us.

Those Who Fear The Lord

Now verse 16-18 transitions to a different type of person.  The descriptor of this group is “the fear of the Lord.”  They feel the same tensions and difficulties.  They too wonder why the wicked get ahead and the righteous are ran over.  But they have a bedrock belief in God that won’t budge.  With Job they say, “though God slay me, yet will I trust Him.”  Even if God let’s me die, I will still trust Him.  They are afraid of the idea of following anything but God.  Like the disciples of Jesus they feel the tug to walk away, but then where else would they go and who would they turn to?  “No one else has the words of life.”  This fear of the Lord enables a person to remain restrained when all the world around them plunges into the insanity of conclusions that are contradictions to the Maker of our Reality.  Like Israel in the desert, these know that God is bringing them to good, and that even the desert is a place of intimacy.  It is the place where God supplies in ways we could not see nor imagined.  They are the times that deepen our soul and strengthen godly character within us.  It is the refiner’s fire that gives opportunity to say to the Lord, “please scrape off this scum that keeps rising to the surface of my heart.”

Notice that those who fear the Lord talked with each other.  Though it isn’t explicitly stated it is hard to imagine they are doing much other than encouraging each other to keep the faith; encouraging each other to keep walking the Way of the Lord.  We have to find times to encourage each other in God’s Ways and in His Promises.  Our times of Church gatherings should be exactly this.  However, they can be taken over by the unbelieving and spoiled by arrogant and inflated egos.  From such a place run.  Those who fear the Lord will encourage each other.

However, God see this and listens in on these conversations.  It impresses Him to have a Book of Remembrance written to record and give evidence to such conversations of encouragement.  Now, nobody ever feels like God is paying such close attention to their difficulties that He is writing a book about them.  This happens silently in heaven, unnoticed by us on earth.  He is listening and He is intimately concerned with our “working it out.”  Our actions of faith are not always Red-Sea-Parting moments.  Sometimes they are the simple, normal, talking with a friend hashing out why we feel things in our heart and yet why we can’t walk away from the Lord.  Strengthen the hands that hang down!

God says that these people are jewels to Him, and that they are like a son who serves his father.  When the Day of Judgment comes, He will not only just spare these.  But He will take them up as His possession, while the rest are taken away in destruction.  He will spare them the judgment that the wicked are plunging towards.  Now, at the cross and resurrection, Jesus took up those jewels out of the land of Israel.  He called that believing remnant to follow Him into the wilderness as God poured out His judgments on the Egypt that the nation had become.  Later in 70 AD when the nation of Israel was being destroyed, God’s remnant had been pulled to himself and entered into His blessing.  Lest we become arrogant and inflated ourselves, let us recognize that we are in a similar situation today.  Beware lest your life “rhyme” with the life of the wicked 2,000 years ago.  There is a Day of Judgment coming for America and a day of judgment coming for this whole world.  They question is, will God see me as a jewel in that day or is His wrath coming for me?  Do not surrender to unbelief.  Rather, flee into the Word of God and trust His Ways completely, because God will eventually make it clear who are the righteous and who are the wicked.

Scoffers have increased outside the Church and within.  Those who do not fear God within are manipulating the Scriptures to their own desires.  But we must fear God, encourage each other, and warn the perishing.  However, let me warn you.  Warning the perishing will only become more dangerous in this country.  It will take a higher and higher personal cost to warn those who have cast off restraint.  It will seem like it is useless to do so and that those who do are ran over.  However, it is what God has told us to do.  I know this post is long and hopefully you have made it to this point.  If you have then let me plead with you to guard your heart against the unbelief that this society causes to come to the surface.  You don’t know how precious you really are to God.  I don’t say that to inflate your ego.  But to build up your faith in Jesus.  Let’s go forward for Jesus and lay our lives down that other might live.

Complaining vs encouraging audio