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Entries in Wicked (5)

Wednesday
Sep202017

The Judgment of the Nations II

We apologize that the audio is not available for this sermon.

Matthew 25:35-46.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 17, 2017.

Today we finish part two in this look at Jesus judging the nations after His Second Coming.  This is an event that is in the future, but towards which we are hurtling quickly.  The Bible is clear that Jesus will return after a devastating period called The Great Tribulation.  This period is at least 3.5 years long and some speak of it as 7 years.  During this time mankind chooses to put a tyrant in charge of the world that then uses religion and economics to control all peoples.  At The Second Coming of Jesus, this governmental system is destroyed, leaving only the surviving populace left.  This is who Jesus is judging in this passage.

Last week we saw how Jesus will come in a spectacular manner and as the King of all Kings.  He sets up a throne and will judge who gets to enter into the new kingdom.  His judgment is a matter of discerning who is righteous and who is not.  Regardless of whether or not a person survives to this point, the question is the same for every person in every generation.  When I am judged by God will He see me as righteous or wicked?  It is easy to say that He will see us as “basically good.”  Of course we all think that we should be accepted.  But will God think so?

The sheep on the right hand

We left off with verse 34 last time, and saw how Jesus was separating the sheep from the goats, or the righteous from the wicked.  Thus the sheep or righteous are put on his right hand.  They are basically told that they are blessed because they will get to enter into the Kingdom that Jesus is setting up.  In Revelation we see that this kingdom will last 1,000 years on this earth and thus it is often called the Millennial Kingdom.  Technically Jesus already is a king over a kingdom.  But that kingdom is from heaven and in the hearts of men.  This point in time represents a real and significant change in the administration of Jesus.

So how does he determine the good from the bad?  Interestingly enough, he says to the people on his right hand that it is their care for even the least of his brothers and sisters.  He gives a list of 5 situations in which they helped his family (hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, in prison).  They had fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, and visited the imprisoned.  Even more than this, Jesus states that when they helped his family they were helping him.  It is interesting that the righteous are clueless to this dynamic.  So this is not a group of people who are trained in the Word of God.  I believe that most of these people refused to take the mark of the beast, but not necessarily because they believed in Christ.  They probably witness the hatred of the world against Christians and feel sorry for them.  In helping them they take a stand against the beast and with God’s people.  Jesus accepts this as having taken a stand with Him.

This begs the question.  Just who are the brethren of Jesus?  In Matthew 12:50 Jesus says, “Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”  At the time, his mom and brothers were trying to get into see him and take him home.  They thought that he was out of his mind.  When told that his mother and brothers were outside, Jesus counters with the recognition that his true brothers (family) are those who do the will of God.  The will of God is for all people everywhere to repent of their sins and believe on Jesus, a.k.a. To become true, born-again believers in Jesus, Christians.  Sometimes people try to interpret this as the Jewish people themselves.  Let me say that its proper meaning is those who follow Jesus.  However, the bible is also clear that The Great Tribulation is about God bringing the nation of Israel to a place of repentance and salvation from their enemies.  So there is room to recognize that God will hold people accountable for how they treated Christians and Jewish people who He is bringing to salvation.  We should always beware working against those whom God has pledged Himself to. 

Now the key to this passage is the close identification that Jesus makes with his family.  These people are being blessed because they identified with the family of Jesus in times of difficulty.  Jesus considers a good deed done for them as a good deed done to Him.  This does put a bit of a wrinkle in the mentality of those who say they like Jesus, but don’t care for His followers.  If you really like Jesus then you will recognize how closely He identifies with his followers and bless them when they need help rather than piling on with the rest of the world.  You don’t have to like them, but you do need to love them.  Why?  We need to do so because Jesus loves them so much that he inseparably identifies himself with them.  This is just as important among fellow believers.  How do we treat one another as the brothers and sisters of Christ, or even as the least of his brothers and sisters?  We cannot use the status of a person and their failings as an excuse not to love them.  Now let’s turn to the goats.

The goats on the left hand

Next we are told that the goats (wicked) are put on the left hand.  In verse 41 they are called cursed, and the implication is that they are cursed by the Father.  Their punishment is given in the command to depart from Jesus and go into the everlasting fire.  This is the fire that was originally created for the devil and his angels, but to which wicked men will go also.  It is clear that there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun, in this life.  Which will it be for you?  Sure you can deny it or theologize its existence away.  But the truth is that Jesus will judge us and give us our reward or punishment.  Which will your life warrant?

In parallel fashion, Jesus points out that the goats had not cared for his brothers and sisters.  In fact, this is probably putting it rather mildly.  The Tribulation period will involve one of the greatest persecutions of God’s people ever.  Those who do not pledge allegiance by taking the mark of the beast will be excluded from buying and selling, and also will be hunted down and put to death.  Whether these actively helped in this persecution, or passively allowed it to happen, they are held accountable.  Whatever good they had withheld from his family, He considers it withheld from Him.  Now, not to help people who are hungry, thirsty…etc. is an injustice on the face of it.  No person deserves to be abused for simply refusing to join a political system.  But again we notice that Jesus takes it personal.  Even believers should stand up and take notice of this.  Some believers have no problem talking about other Christians behind their back and saying all manner of things that they have no proof of.  Won’t Jesus consider it as if we did it to Him, if we are wrong?  We should love one another on its face value.  The other Christian has just as much right in God’s family as I do.  Even if I hold a position that is “above” them, it does not give me the right to be unloving towards them.  That said, we do live in an age where to hold someone accountable to the Word of God is considered unloving by some.  When we love each other, we truly love Christ.  When we correct each other we should do so with the humility of knowing that I will have to give account before Christ some day.  We must remember that we all bear the image of Christ.  When we love each other we love Christ in a very real way.  This is probably the key to understanding why Christians are not called to take over the world and fix it.  Our job is not to fix the world, but to offer it salvation.  In the middle of this, we also become a litmus test to those who interact with us and within each society.  Just as the treatment of Jesus proved Israel of the first century was worthy of judgment, so the world’s mistreatment of God’s people will prove its worthiness of judgment.  This is not a fun job, but it will allow us to become like Jesus, rather than becoming like the devil and his angels.

In conclusion, we need to see that faith in Jesus will lead to good works that God will accept.  Some people get hung up on the fact that there is no mention of faith.  However, this is like saying God isn’t in the book of Esther.  He isn’t named or blatantly acting like He did at Sinai, but He is there nonetheless.  So too, the people had to exercise faith in those actions of mercy they gave to God’s people.  Some will even say that these people aren’t being saved they are just being allowed to enter the Kingdom.  Yet, verse 46 says that these same people will enter into eternal life.  To have Jesus is to have eternal life.  1 John 5:12, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son does not have life.”  Because they are mortal, they are in the same condition that Christians are in today.  Their initial faith led to actions worthy of repentance.  Rather than joining with antichrist against God’s people, they have stood with God’s people before mankind.  This faith has put them in relationship with Christ, which is to have eternal life.  However, they must continue in faith in Jesus in order to continue in eternal life.  They are not being saved by works, but rather being saved by faith that was alive enough to do works.

Also, we should note that in this passage the main point is about helping God’s people.  So does that mean it doesn’t matter if we help the lost or not?  Or, another might ask, “Shouldn’t we help unbelievers too?”  The short answer is of course we should.  But let me simply answer this by quoting Galatians 6:10.  “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”  Clearly we are instructed to do good to all.  Friend, don’t go another day without making your peace with Jesus, and taking your place among His family.  No they aren’t easy to love, but then neither are you.  We will have to become more like Jesus in order to accomplish such a tall order!

Wednesday
Sep132017

The Judgment of the Nations I

A great theme throughout the New Testament is the mercy and the grace of God that is offered to everyone who will put their faith in Jesus, the Son of God.  However, the reason it is such great grace and such immeasurable mercy is because it saves us from the judgments that are coming upon the earth at some point in the future.  The passage that we will look at this morning deals with this judgment that will happen when Jesus comes back to earth in order to set up his earthly kingdom.  Something we should keep in mind is the fact that by this time many “judgments” will have occurred already (as we see in the book of Revelation).  During the seven years leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus, God will send forth severe judgments on the earth.  Some of them involve the removal of His protection from our own actions.  The Beast Leader of Revelation will come forward and take control of the whole earth, bringing it under a mandatory economic system that involves allegiance to him.  He will have many people put to death.   Other judgments involve God actively doing things such as: allowing the spirit-beings to be released from the bottomless pit, earthquakes, and other environmental destruction.  We also see in Revelation 19 that the nations of the world will gather their armies together in the Middle East in order to fight against Christ and stop His coming.  We are told that these armies will be completely destroyed, and the beast and the false prophet will be captured and thrown alive into the Lake of Fire.  Thus we are given a scene of a conquering King who is judging those who are left among the nations, those who have survived the horrors of The Great Tribulation.

Takes place when the Son of Man comes

The phrase “Son of Man” was used a lot by Jesus referring to himself.  On one hand it is a title that emphasizes that someone is human, i.e. born of a human.  He wanted us to know that he truly was human.  This should not be seen as a contradiction of his also being the Son of God, i.e. divine.  On the other hand, this phrase is also a technical term for an individual that was revealed in Daniel 7:13-14.  It was revealed to Daniel that none of the empires of the earth would last.  Rather, God would give everlasting dominion and a kingdom that cannot be destroyed to a character called “The Son of Man.”  The Son of Man would be representative of the saints and share his kingdom with them.  Jesus clearly saw himself as this character and his apostles clearly taught this about him later.  This passage represents that point in the future when the Son of Man takes up this rule upon the earth.

We are told that the Son of Man would come in his glory.  The idea of coming in glory refers to both how it will appear to those who see it, but also to the particular stage of Christ’s activity.  The first coming was all about his humbling.  But the Second Coming will be all about his being glorified.  We should also connect this to Matthew 24:30.  There Jesus tells us that the Son of Man will come on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (similar descriptions are in Daniel 7:13-14).   This glorious appearing involves visibility to the whole earth with Jesus in the sky, accompanied by angels who are most likely visible as well.  Some would also say that resurrected believers will also accompany Jesus, but that is another sermon.  On top of all of this, in the book of Revelation the Apostle John sees Jesus in a way that makes clear that he is not the same as he was when he was a lowly teacher in Israel.  His glorified form is described in Revelation 1:13-16.

“13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.”  (NKJV)

He is not coming again to lay his life down for sinners.  He is coming to bring the judgment that has been warned against for millennia, and He will be in glorious form.

Part of his glory is to sit on the throne of his glory.  This is as opposed to sitting at the right hand of the Father’s throne where he is now (Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 8:1).  His Second Coming takes place because the Father has determined the time is ready for Jesus to come back and begin his 1,000 year rule on this earth.  Christians are already a part of the kingdom of God.  But that kingdom is ruled from heaven and has a very spiritual nature to it.  At this point, the Kingdom of God will take on a more physical reality because Jesus and his place of rule will be a visible place here on earth.  It is important for Christians and the denominations, to which they belong, to avoid seeing their buildings and headquarters, or even each country, as synonymous with God’s kingdom.  No leader or city on this earth is to be confused with what this passage is talking about.  Jesus is the only king and until he comes back no earthly city has claim to the allegiance of Christians.

We are also told that part of taking his place upon the throne of his glory is to judge all the nations.  As I said earlier, it is the survivors of The Great Tribulation that are in view here.  Thus Christ takes time to remove all things that are wicked before He continues His kingdom.  The nations have already had their political aspect judged.  Here the individuals of the nations are brought before Christ and he gives a decision regarding their future.  It is amazing how many people and even Christians who do not understand that Jesus is the judge of all people.  But this is a cardinal teaching of the New Testament.  Jesus is the judge of the dead and the living.  He has been given this position by the Father.  Please remember that the key understanding of the word “judgment” is that of making a decision.  He is making a decision between what is good, or acceptable, versus that which is not good, or wicked.  This is pictured by a separation of sheep from goats.  Notice that though these are all people who may not have noticeable differences to us, Jesus is able to determine a spiritual difference between them.  Those who are classified as sheep are those who are putting their faith in God.  Those who are classified as goats are those who have not trusted in God, and His Anointed One Jesus.

This judgment will lead to an individual being rewarded because they are deemed righteous or punished because they are deemed wicked.  We are only going to look at the righteous today and will pick up the rest of the story next Sunday.  Notice that the sheep are told that they are blessed of the Father.  They are blessed because they get to experience and enter the kingdom of God.  This kingdom will not be ruled by the wicked politicians of this world, or even hypocritical religious leaders.  It will be ran by the perfect judge, Jesus Christ.  This will truly be a Utopian age in which wars will cease and the ability of mankind is enabled by the grace of God to become what He intended it to become.  The Bible says that people will live longer during this period of time and will not die from diseases and other maladies.  Revelation 20 gives some more information on this 1,000 year period.  Now it is important to recognize at this point that these people are still mortal.  However, there will also be a large host of glorified believers who have accompanied Jesus to earth along with the angels.  They are not emphasized in this passage, but we know they will assist Jesus as kings and priests in His administration.  So the Millennial Kingdom will have both resurrected humans (who cannot die) and mortal humans who can.  This mixed group will be like Noah and his family stepping off of the ark.  They were spared the destruction of God’s wrath and are blessed with the grace and peace of entering the new age.  Many people of this world believe they can bring about a new age that is full of peace and joy.  All attempts that do not look to Jesus to bring it about are doomed to failure, even if they are done by Christians.  We cannot make this happen.  But we can serve Christ faithfully as we wait for the day in which this will come to past.

We do not know when Christ will return.  We are simply told to continue to be faithful to what Christ has told us to do.  Our mission statement is that we exist to connect people to the Abundant Life found in Jesus.  We must make sure each day that we are drawing life from Jesus and following Him in all that we do or say.  We must make sure that we are taking our place in His family of believers and doing our part to encourage others.  We must make sure that we are having compassion on the lost and making them aware of Christ’s offer to join his people and enjoy the blessing of the Father.  Our reward is sure no matter how dire things may get on earth before then.

Judgment of the Nations audio

Tuesday
Aug022016

The Song of Salvation

Isaiah 26:1-15.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on July 31, 2016.

We have been looking at the joy that will erupt from the people who are alive after the Second Coming of Jesus.  In chapter 25 we saw that all people will be gathered to the Jerusalem area and will celebrate with a feast before the Lord.  Thus chapter 26 continues in this context.  A song breaks out in which the people praise God for His salvation.

Singing for the City of the Righteous

If this passage is not taken in context, it would be easy to think this is only speaking of Jewish people.  But notice verse one focuses on the place, “in the land of Judah.”  This is a song that will be sung by all the people of God and the survivors of the wrath of God.  What is the object of this song?  They recognize the strength of their city as opposed to the cities of man, especially the City of Confusion (chapter 24), which represent and rules over them all.  Throughout history the righteous have often been walked over by the dominions of this world.  Even now the Church does not have a nation or capitol on this earth.  Thus when Jesus comes back the celebration is over the fact that finally our King is here and His dominion is one that is stronger than all those of mankind.

We can think of this city as literal in that Jesus will rule from a literal Jerusalem during the Millennial Kingdom.  Yet the earthly Jerusalem is only a shadow or symbol pointing the New Jerusalem that will come down out of heaven at the end of the Millennium.  Even then, the wording of the song goes beyond a focus on a physical city.  Notice that walls and bulwarks of this city are salvation that God appoints.  Thus the righteous recognize that no matter what our walls and defenses look like in the natural and in comparison with the defenses of this world, our city is strong and our walls impervious because it is the Lord Himself who has appointed us to salvation.  Thus after the cities of this world are turned to rubble, the righteous rejoice in the City of God.  There is another thing to notice.  In light of the New Testament, this passage becomes even more amazing because the term for salvation is yeshua.  Literally it could be read, “God will appoint Yeshua (Jesus) for walls and bulwarks (i.e. as its defenses).  Is this not what we have now?  Jesus is our defense.  No matter what the mighty of this world do and how often they take advantage of us, their defenses will fall and ours will stand in the end.

Verse 2 refers to the gates of the city.  These gates are most likely fully realized in the gates of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:27.  “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”  Gates protect access.  The wicked cannot live in this city, but the righteous are allowed access.  So who is this “righteous nation which keeps the Truth?”  It is not natural Israel.  Rather Isaiah is seeing a nation of people who have been called together out of all the nations of the earth.  Thus Peter exhorted the believers, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9).  It is a nation of God’s own making.  They are not righteous because of their biology or geography.  They are righteous because they have been made so by God Himself.  The Truth that they keep is the revelation of God: Jesus is our salvation and there is no other.  This call for the gates to open up and allow the righteous nation to come in is parallel with Psalm 24.  There the call for the gates to open up is to allow the King of Glory to enter.  “Who is this King of Glory?  The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.”  It is Jesus.

Verse 3 points out the inner reality of those who are the righteous.  They have the perfect peace of God because of what goes on inside of them rather than what they are or do on the outside.  Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Perfect peace is that peace which has been given by God, rather than men.  When I was a kid we sang a song in which the lyrics said, “I’ve got something the world can’t give and the world can’t take it away.”  The righteous refuse to take the offers of this world and instead hang onto God in trust.  This inner trust or faith is rewarded by God with peace, both now and ultimately at His Second Coming.  Isaiah says that their “mind is stayed on You.”  The word “stayed” has the sense of leaning upon something or resting upon/within something.  Thus the righteous have refused to lean upon anything but Jesus.  They look nowhere else for their defenses, but Jesus.  Thus they will “trust in the Lord forever.”  In the face of that which tries to separate us from the Lord, we trust in the Lord.  Why?  We trust now in the light of that day of joy which lies ahead, rather than in the light of the nations and the powerful of this world.  Verse 4 ends with a phrase translated “everlasting strength.”  Literally, the Lord is an Everlasting Rock.  This picture of an unassailable place like Masada is in mind.  In this world, even the most unassailable rocks can be taken (as the Romans eventually did to the Jews there).  But the Lord is a rock everlasting.  None can climb these defenses.  The Rock is also the picture of a firm foundation that will hold up anything built upon it in the Day of Shaking.  God is an impregnable refuge for those who trust in Him.

In verses 5-6 we are reminded of the character of God.  The City of the Righteous will continue where the City of the Wicked is cast down.  It is part of God’s nature that He brings down the high and mighty who trust in themselves and lays them down in the dust.  This picture of total humiliation and defeat is exactly what Isaiah has described in chapter 24.  So why would anyone ever put their trust in the high and mighty of this world, whether spiritual or material?  Why trust in occult knowledge gained through rebellious spirits?  Why trust in politicians, artists, or even technology of man?  All these things are destined to be cast into the dust.  But the City of the Righteous will not be cast down, because it has been humble all along.  The rubble of the destruction is so complete that it becomes like the gravel that is used to make a road.  Thus the poor and the needy will tread over the rubble of the high and mighty kingdoms.  So which city does your heart dwell in?  The city doomed for destruction, or the City of the Righteous?

The Dependency of the Righteous

Whether the song continues in verses 7-15 or not, the theme does change.  Isaiah turns to the inner life of the Righteous.  They depend upon God and Him alone.  In verse 7 we see that they walk the straight path of the Lord.  In other words they walk a path that is measured against the Lord Himself- the Most Upright One.  The word translated “upright” is a word that draws its meaning from the context.  An upright road would be straight and level.  An upright building would be plumb or square.  Thus an upright person is a person who walks straight and stands upright.  In all of this the key is that the Lord is the “Straight One.”  It is He who judges our path and helps to make it even.  God will teach us His ways and straighten out our path if we will depend upon Him more than our own reasoning.  A person’s ways always seem right to them, unless they depend upon God’s direction more than their own.

In verse 8 we see that the righteous have waited for the Lord because He is the desire of their soul.  Notice that Isaiah sees the righteous waiting for the Lord on His path.  When we walk the way of the Lord it does not guarantee instant connection.  Many have “tried” the ways of the Lord and walked away.  However, those who wait for Him will find Him.  The ways of the Lord test us, melt us down, and temper us, until we are as we should be.  So what makes a righteous person wait?  They wait because they are not solely interested in getting something else out of God.  Too often we are trying to get something else from God because our soul desires something other than Him.  This is exactly what an idol is.  All things must be laid at His feet as we wait for Him to reveal Himself to us.  The righteous always wait for God. 

This is contrasted with the wicked at the end of verse 9.  They learn righteousness when God judges the earth.  Even more than that, when God gives grace and favor, the wicked do not learn anything.  They simply take advantage of it and the righteous, and attribute it all to their own greatness.  Given a wonderful society and good people, they will still choose wickedness (a crooked path).  This is not to say that people cannot change.  The wicked here are not just those who sin at any time.  But rather those who have rejected God’s ways and will never turn back.  Verse 11 goes further and describes that the wicked don’t even recognize God when His hand is raised for judgment.  They will not recognize until they are actually being crushed under the weight of His falling judgment.  We all have a decision to make in the now.  Either we let our hearts be broken and turn to the Lord, or we march stubbornly on, only to have our life broken in judgment.

Thus in verse 12 we see that the Lord brings peace to the righteous.  No matter what the present looks like, the Lord will establish peace for the righteous.  Their ending point is secure because of Him, not themselves.  Even our accomplishments of righteousness have been done by God who is working through us.  His Word and His Spirit, working and moving upon us enable faith and action.

In verses 13-14, we see that even after being chastised, the righteous are blessed.  Just as Israel had been chastised by the Lord many times, we also find ourselves under the Lord’s rebuke from time to time.  No matter how many nations had ruled over Israel, they still belonged to the Lord.  Thus our destiny is sure even when God is disciplining us.  Those whom He uses may fall into the dust to never be raised up again, be the righteous will be raised up by God Himself.  Proverbs 24:16, “A righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity.”  Thus Israel, who would later find their nation broken and cast to the winds, will find that Jesus has increased the number of the people of God and has expanded the borders of the True Israel of God.  That is, Both Jew and Gentile will be drawn into one people that will be far greater than all the ancient land of Israel.  This is the destiny of those who put their trust on God and depend upon Him alone.

Song of Salvation audio

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