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Weekly Word

Entries in Israel (2)

Tuesday
Jun252013

A Heavy Word to a Loved One

We are going to begin a verse by verse walk through the book of Malachi.  This is the last book of the Old Testament and the end of the section that is called the “Minor Prophets.”  They are called minor because their written prophecies are very small compared to the “Major Prophets” like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.  Malachi literally means “my messenger.”  So there is some dispute as to whether the prophet’s name is Malachi or it is a reference to his prophetic role.  Note that there is no reference to a father ( e.g. Zechariah, son of Berechiah, son of Iddo; or Haggai the son of Shealtiel).

The prophecy is given to Israel during the period after their exile into Babylon and subsequent return.  So let’s begin to look at what God had to say to these people who had been judged by God and now were back in the land rebuilding.

God Reminds Us Of His Love For Us

Verse one begins by calling the Word of the Lord a burden or heavy load.  It is a picture of a camel or donkey that has been weighed down with something to carry.  Malachi received a “Word” from God that was very heavy.  Love can be a fun and light thing, but it can also be very heavy.  God and Israel had been through some very stormy waters.  And, now, the people of Israel had come to a place where they doubted God’s love for them.  Often the myopia of our own circumstances can cause us to think we have it so bad when, in reality, we have it far better than others.  Such is the case with Israel.

Malachi employs a technique where God makes a statement and then points out how Israel is questioning this.  Thus, God says, “I have loved you.”   Whether they were saying it out loud or only in their hearts, God could hear their response, “In what way have you loved us?”

As a Father, God had judged Israel’s actions as wrong.  He had disciplined them and now was restoring them.  What child doesn’t sometimes feel like their parent doesn’t love them?  All of us feel this.

We can grow insensitive to God’s love for us because we want things to be different.  We don’t have the bigger view that a parent would have, much less God.  The present realities of now cloud our ability to see God’s love.  Remember, God is not content for us just to be happy.  He wants us to be like Him.  Thus we chafe under the discipline it takes to become like God.

Next God reminds them of the difference between their nation and the nation of Edom.  As Israel was the descendants of Jacob, so Edom was the descendants of Esau.  It is not surprising to hear God say that he had loved Israel.  But it is surprising to hear God say that he has hated Esau.  What?  There are two points to make about this statement. 

First of all, in this context hate is more a comparison that God loved Israel more and didn’t choose Esau like he did them.  God’s blessings upon Israel were greater than Esau and Edom.  It is not so much about a intense dislike for someone as it is about the lack of a loving choice.  Think of it from the prospective of the jilted person.  Jacob thought he had married Rachel, but instead was given Leah.  Now Jacob did not have an intense hatred for Leah, but he wasn’t satisfied with her.  He worked another 7 years to get Rachel and then demonstrated that he “really” loved Rachel in countless ways in the decades ahead.  The Bible says that when God saw that Leah was unloved (same word translated hated here) he opened her womb.  Jacob may not have had an intense hatred of Leah like we think, but he didn’t “love” her like he did Rachel and that hurt Leah.  Similarly, God is saying that when Jacob and Esau were in the womb, God had chosen to bless Jacob above his brother.  Esau would not receive the same blessing, although he was blessed in many ways as well.  This choosing was not based on biology (same mother and father).  Nor was it based on birth order (the first would be less than the second).  Now we should be careful of confusing this with salvation.  The role and purpose that God was giving to Jacob played a part in salvation, but it was not an declaration that Esau could not be saved. 

Esau could have recognized God’s calling and chose to join with his brother, like Jonathan did.  When Saul was rejected and David chosen we see two very different spirits on display.  In refusing to accept this change, Saul pitted himself as an enemy against David and, even worse, against God.  It led to his eventual physical and spiritual destruction.  Now Jonathan on the other hand recognized the just nature of God’s judgment and chose to embrace David and thus embrace God.  Though Jonathan is killed because of Saul’s folly, no one would make the case that Jonathan was not “saved” or went into eternity with God’s mercy upon him.

Thus Esau and his descendants went on to go down the same path Saul chose,  that of a rebel and self-trust.  The emphasis here is not on what Edom had become, but on that original choosing.  Thus it might be better to see this as Jacob was loved, but (in comparison) Esau was unloved.  The calling is what is in view here.  We can fight against the calling of another or we can join with them and be blessed.

Because of their similar choices, both Edom and Israel had been defeated and destroyed.  Yet, God revealed that he would help Israel rebuild, but he would not help Edom.  In fact God states that he would pull down anything that Esau’s descendants tried to rebuild.  God was not going to bless their wickedness.

We might be quick to cry “foul” here, but recognize that in all of this the issue is not God giving one salvation and refusing to give it to another.  Both are equally able to be saved.  However, because of his calling God would restore Israel.  In fact we know that Israel would go on to a point of rebellion that would cause God to cast them out of the land again between 70 AD and 135 AD.  Both found that not matter what your calling is, only faith in God would bring salvation.

In verse 5 they are told that they would see God’s love for them and recognize that His greatness would overflow the boundaries of Israel, which it did in Jesus the Messiah.

Thus in these last days all nations have the same opportunity to hear the Heavy Word of the Lord and repent.  We, like Jonathan, can agree with God’s rejection of us and acceptance of Jesus.  We can secure for ourselves the favor of God by serving Jesus as Jonathan did David. 

Further Thoughts

It is never easy to deal with heavy things.  But they will never go away unless we face them.  God has given every individual the choice to enter into His love by following Jesus, or remain forever under His judgment.  Have you made that choice to believe on Jesus and follow him yet?  Believe me when I say that the day will come when those who have put their faith in Jesus will see his glory revealed over all the earth as he returns to take up the governance of the earth.  And, all those who have chosen against him will find themselves on the losing side of the battle.  God loves you.  Why would you die?  So, choose life today.

Heavy Word Audio

Tuesday
Feb052013

Serving For God’s Glory

Today we continue in 1 Peter chapter 4 and deal with verses 7-11.  This section does not speak about suffering per se.  However, it does answer the question.  What should we be doing?  Peter does so by first reminding them of where they are in relation to God’s plan and gives them some practical things upon which to focus.

The End Of All Things Is At Hand

Verse 7 begins with an ominous statement that the end of all things is at hand.  Thus we need to deal with what Peter meant by “The End.”  There are some that believe the apostles taught that Jesus was returning within a matter of months maybe years and thus Peter’s statement reflects his mistaken belief that the coming of Jesus was going to happen shortly.  However this flies in the face of what the Bible says.  Jesus himself had told the apostles in Acts 1:7 that it was not for them to know the times or the seasons which the Father had kept to himself.  Also, many of the parables of Jesus emphasized a long departure of the King which would lead to many of his “managers” abusing their positions.  It is inconsistent to read into this statement that Peter means the Judgment of the nations was going to happen within years.

Others believe that “the end” refers to Israel under the Law of Moses.  In fact they take most if not all of the end times language of the New Testament to refer to the Judgment of Israel.  It is true that the judgment of Israel, which had already begun, would soon receive a “nail in the coffin,” as the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD.  The problem is that this doesn’t fit the context.  Peter is writing to Christians who have already left Israel behind. They were a remnant sent out into the world as a judgment to Israel.  They were scattered throughout the area of modern Turkey.  The final point would be the use of the phrase “all things.”  It would really be stretching the context to make “all things” only mean all things pertaining to Israel.  They live in Gentile lands and their need to be sober and watchful in prayer is because of the coming judgment upon the nations.

The apostles taught that Jesus could come at any time and was ready to bring judgment, but that they did not know the time.  Believers were to simply live a life of readiness for the Lord’s coming.  Thus the Church age or the time of Grace to the Gentiles is characterized by a people who are warning of looming judgment and are ready at all times for it to come.  Israel’s judgment is a warning that emphasizes the message of the Church. 

When we look at history from God’s perspective we will recognize that it has a clear purpose and a distinct destiny.  A football field does not go on forever.  It has a goal or end point that enables a team to place.  God has not put mankind on an infinite field.  The history of mankind is headed somewhere and is revealed in God’s Word.  God is reasoning with man and the angels regarding his nature and the nature of good and evil.  We went from Innocence in the Garden to Rebellion and then Judgment at the Flood.  However, in Noah we see the Grace of God who then furthers that grace by creating a nation Israel who would teach mankind regarding Legalism.  At the cross all mankind, whether rebellious heathens or sanctimonious “followers of God,” are judged as wicked and in need of God’s grace.  We now live in a period of Grace in which God allows that reasoning or message to go out to the world and save whosoever will receive it.  Thus mankind has a purpose that gives it a specific limit or end.

Lastly, regarding the end we need to deal with the phrase “at hand.”  This phrase is more a phrase of process than it is of chronology.  In other words it does not necessarily mean it is about to happen in a matter of months or years.  It means that the plan of God that has reasoned with mankind throughout history had reached its final point.  Now Judgment was looming and a time of grace was given for men to make up their mind.  Jesus is ready to judge, but God refrains from sending him because he is making room for more to be saved.  From a standpoint of the plan of God nothing new needs to happen.  God’s witness of himself is completed and the Church gives it to all those who it can.  Judgment of this world system is the next thing on the agenda.  In that sense it is at hand and ready for the Father’s directive.

How Then Should Believers Live?

This important point of where we are in God’s economy is to let those who are suffering know that not only does their suffering have purpose, but it also has an end.  So what do we do in the mean time?  Simply they need to do what Jesus told them to do. 

First they need to be sober-minded and self controlled.  The two words used here speak to the same idea, but one focuses on the mind whereas the other includes actions.  The world is pursuing the desires of the flesh in an ever maddening rush.  Like a drunken person who has lost all inhibitions and awareness, the world plunges forward into its judgment.  Believers are not to be a part of this.  We are to have “right thinking” and calm purposeful actions that are informed by God himself and thus, reality.  This world threatens to spiritually inebriate Christians, but we must refuse its intoxication.  Temptations can cause us to throw off inhibitions and make dangerous choices, which lead to dangerous actions.  Jesus is coming to judge the world.  Will he find you being faithful when he comes?

We should also be people of prayer.  We don’t just pray soberly.  Rather it is our sobriety that leads us into prayer.  The more we live for the flesh the less we will pray for the right things and eventually the less we will pray at all.  Whether worship and praise, or intercession and petition, the believer who lives in a world that rejects God will find themselves turning to God more and more often.  Between the goodness of God and the heaviness of the world we should not lack motivation to come to God in prayer.

In verse 8 he calls us to be people who love each other.  This is to be above all things.  That does not necessarily mean more important.  But rather our love for one another is the overall atmosphere in which we do all that we do.  We are to love fervently.  The word translated fervently literally means to stretch out.  Much like a football player who wants to make a touchdown stretches out and leaps for the catch, so too must believers stretch themselves out in love.  You may think to yourself, “But I don’t want to get hurt.”  The real question is this: How badly do you want to catch the ball?  Jesus calls us to want to love each other so strongly that we are willing to stretch ourselves out and risk a broken rib here and there.  In fact because each of us are sinners saved by grace, we need love to cover our own sins.  Cover here does not mean to cover up by pretending it doesn’t exist.  Rather, love overlooks those minor faults that we all have and yet confronts those major faults that we all need to change.  Love enables us to remain in community even though our sins would tear us all apart. 

In verse 9 he brings up the issue of hospitality.  This word means to be a friend to strangers.  Though it is hospitable to have your friends over for dinner, true hospitality is when you invite someone you don’t know over for dinner.  Not only that, but we need to do so without that inner complaining that can ruin our spirit.

Lastly, Peter tells us to minister God’s gifts to each other.  Though this can be seen as still a part of love, Peter spends 2 verses fleshing this out in particular.  God has blessed you with certain gifts and abilities.  But they are not for you to spend on yourself.  Rather we are to manage them and administer them to one another.  You are a manager of God’s stuff in your life.  Are you a stingy manager?  Lazy? Lavish? Diligent?  What kind of manager am I of God’s things?  Just as the prophets of old had a serious calling, so we must see ourselves called to bless others through the gifts and abilities that he has and is supplying.  Do not merely trust in yourself, but lean upon God’s supply.  Yes, you may not be able to do it.  But God can through you if you will trust him.

When we minister his gifts to each other we will bring glory to God because we have properly reflected the heart of Jesus.  This really is our ultimate purpose.  So do we really need to do something different as we see the end times come closer and closer?  Not really. The instructions remain the same, because they have always been the instructions of what to do under the looming threat of the end.

Final Thoughts

In these last days we see, on the one hand, how God has lengthened the day of grace in order to save more people.  Peter speaks to this in 2 Peter 3:9 when he says, “The Lord is not slow concerning his promise.”  On the other hand, as we approach the end God will need to shorten it.  Due to the wickedness of mankind and the wrath of God being poured out, no flesh would survive.  This is seen in Matthew 24:22.  We can trust God’s perfect supervision of these end times.  Whether we are suffering or persecuted, God is in control.  He is bringing us to something good.  Instead of fear let us pray for boldness to be sober-minded and self controlled as we love one another.  Maranatha!

Serving God's Glory Audio