Wednesday, December 21, 2011


We are going to be covering an entire book of the Bible today - huzzah! Obadiah is actually the shortest book of the Old Testament.

v.1 - Throughout this book Obadiah is going to be prophesying about God's judgment of the people of Edom. The question is - what did the people of Edom do? Well, as we will see Obadiah speak of throughout the chapter...the people of Edom betrayed Israel during occupation by the Babylonian Empire. They helped captured fleeing Israelites and brought them back to the Babylonians and they also took part in the looting of Jerusalem.

v.10-11 - "Your brother Jacob" - what does this mean? The Edomites were descendants of Esau which means they were actually hereditary cousins to the people of Israel. So not only did they betray God's people, but they betrayed their own flesh and blood, and as the pagan Babylonians entered into Israel raping ad pillaging...the Edomites did the same. Though God had ordained the judgment of Israel through Babylon, it enraged Him that the cousins of Israel would delight in their conquest and participate in it. I would guess that it angers God and breaks His heart when He sees fellow Christians - made into family through the sanctifying blood of Jesus Christ - hurting one another, betraying one another, delighting in one anothers' failure. The Body of Christ should be a place of safety and love.

v. 15 - God is absolutely just...He cannot be unjust. When injustice happens in the world it will have to come face to face with the wrath of our all-powerful, just God. The Edomites sins were poured back on them and they were crushed. Through the blood of Jesus Christ we have been freed from the crushing death f our own sins, if we choose to believe. I hope that is where you place your trust.

v. 17-18 - Though judgment has been unleashed on Israel through Babylon, there will be survivors - a remnant. Edom will not be shown the same kind of mercy. For going to war against the people of God and betraying their own blood, they will be like the stubble on the fields after the harvest that is burned away - there will be nothing left. Within 100 years of this prophesy, Edom was in ruins and has ceased to exist. It never ends well when you set yourself against God and His people.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Amos Chapters 7-9

7:1 - Amos sees a vision of a huge swarm of locusts about to descend on Israel...the timing in this passage is very important. It is after the king's initial the king had feed for his horses Israel will use for food for themselves and their cattle. The king's army even at full strength will be able to offer the people no protection in the face of God's wrath. Amos begs for mercy for the people and God relents...He offers them mercy even though they have not turned back to Him. This verse highlights the meaninglessness of human strength and the willingness of God to relent on judgment if even one person will cry out.

7:12ff - The corrupt high priest of the temple tries to convince Amos to leave town and stop stirring up such a ruckus. He even offers a back-handed compliment when he calls Amos a "seer." While seer was a title of respect in the ancient world, it was also a profession where people made money by seeing visions. Often times, the more money the better the vision if you get my drift. The high priest, who only has his position because he is a lick-boot for the king, is accusing Amos of being in the prophecy game for the money. But Amos makes it very clear to the high priest...he is a poor farmer who prepares figs under the orchard trees...he has been called by God and cannot stop prophesying. Here we have a picture of two paths: those who try to use their supposed belief in God to serve themselves and those who will respond to God's call no matter what the cost or consequences - which one are you?

8:2 - Amos uses a really nice play on words here. He describes the nation of Israel as ripe summer fruit...which sounds really nice - you can imagine delicious juicy fruit ready to quench thirst and fill hungry bellies. But the word for summer fruit in Hebrew is very similar to the Hebrew word for "the end" which is used in the beginning of the last sentence in verse 2. They may seem like summer fruit on the outside, but the nation of Israel is rotten on the inside and the end is near for them. God's judgment is coming because of their choices and there is nothing they can do to stop it.

8:11 - God is going to give the people the most distressing famine of them all - He is actually going to take His presence away from them. With the Spirit of God gone from their country, they will find out what true emptiness is emptiness inside that dwarfs that of a hungry belly. Jesus tells us in John chapter 15 that if we stay connected to God, we will produce god fruit...we will be a part of the body of Christ. If we choose to reject God, we will be cut off from the source of light and life and will experience this same famine of God's presence.

9:1-4 - The judgment upon Israel is will happen...there is nothing that the people can do...they cannot escape. God has given them countless opportunities to repent and turn back and they have continually set themselves as His enemies. He promises here that He will no longer protect them and pour out good blessings on His people...He will allow the evils of the world to wash over them in crushing judgment.

9:14 and 15 - As always, no matter how bad the is always done as a means of bringing about life-change and repentance. It is clear to see as you read through the OT, that this has always been God's heart motivation in judgment.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Amos Chapters 4-6

4:1 - The area around Bashan was very fertile...good land for grazing cattle, so Amos uses a stinging play on words to describe the rich women that lived in this area. He basically calls them fattened cows, which has nothing to do with their physical appearance and everything to do with their hearts. The rich women in Samaria live in luxury and they pressure their husbands to crush the poor around them to maintain their lifestyles. Definitely applicable to our culture...people who are willing to use anybody they need to use and support systems of economic oppression to maintain consumer lifestyles.

4:6 - Cleanness of teeth - what does that mean? Well, let me ask you something - what are your teeth like when you haven't eaten anything? Clean, right? There is no food in your teeth when you haven't had food in a while. Amos is using that phrase to describe people who are in a famine. People who just happen to be so stubborn that they refuse to return to God no matter what He throws at them for discipline.

4:12 - This is the final climactic moment of the more will God warn more will He throw bad situations at them so that they will return to Him...He is coming. And it is never a good thing when somebody says, "Prepare to meet your God!" Especially when it is God Himself saying it. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31). The time for warnings is over and the time for judgment has come. Nothing good ever comes from living life in opposition to God.

5:3 - Amos wants the people to understand the situation they are in - how dire it is. They will have no human power to place their hope in...their armies will be decimated by 90%! Human strength will fail them as it always does.

5:4 - This is such a powerful verse - "Seek me and live." These are the words of life. If we seek God we will find life. In John 14:6 Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth and the one comes to the Father except through me." Life has always been found in God...Jesus gives us access to God...all other roads end in death.

5:11-12 - Amos once again lays out the huge problem God has with the people of Samaria...God's people are neglecting the poor, abusing the weak, neglecting the helpless and oppressing others to feed their own greed. God hates behavior like this. As Christians who pattern their lives after Jesus Christ, we should do everything we can to fight systems that make oppression possible today.

5:15 - Amos gives us a little hint about how you combat the selfish human nature that exists within you...go to war on evil in your life - prepare for it, defend against it, know where you are weak, etc. Seek God as 4:6 told us to do and you will find will be able to love good things and live a life that brings honor to God.

5:20 - I know this verse sounds strange, but it really does make sense. The Day of the Lord truly is terrifying to those who walk in the dark. If you have spent your whole life refusing to live in the Light, then it is a fearful and terrible thing when God shows up. The Jewish people are crying out, saying that they want the Day of the Lord to come, but Amos is warning them - "No you don't! You people are the enemies of God because of your greed and selfishness...if He shows up your will be terrified!"

5:21-23 - God hates empty and meaningless religious behavior. It is pointless to go through the motions of worshipping God if there is no relationships behind it. This is just as true today as it was thousands of years ago. How many Christians today attend services week after week out of duty to "what they have always done" or "what is expected of them" as opposed to be driven to Christian community by their love of God?

5:24 - What happens when millions of gallons of water moving at a high rate of speed tear through an area? Mass destruction. Basically anything that is not solidly built is scoured away. Amos is crying out to God...let justice roll through this land like mighty waters that will wash away all the foundationless evil here. When God's justice rolls through - only that which is anchored in Him will be left.

6:4-6 - It is a terrible thing in the eyes of the Lord for the Jews to sit idly by, to stuff themselves, to live in comfort without a care in the world...while the Promised Land and the Nation of Israel are in an absolute sin-filled shambles. It is also a terrible thing for Christians today to ignore the fact that so few Christians are concerned about being actual disciples of Jesus and just living comfortably in their suburban bubbles.

6:9-10 - This sounds really weird, but it is a description of the destruction that will come down on the rebellious Jews in Samaria. Those who live in fortresses, believing that they will be protected by thick walls and strong arms, will die in their fortresses. When their concerned relatives show up to see if there are any survivors, there will be none. And they cannot call on the Name of the Lord, because it is already too late...they had their chance, but they refused to return to they are dead. This should remind us of the frailty of human strength and the necessity to seek a relationship with God now, because we never know how long we have.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Amos Chapters 1-3

1:1 - Amos is called out of the fields as a shepherd to become a prophet of God. This would have been pretty shocking and controversial in the Jewish world, because shepherds were considered second-class citizens. This goes to show that God has a habit of using those who the world least expects to do incredible things. Amos' life also becomes an illustration of what he is teaching the people, because his ministry is focused on the way the powerful rich have oppressed the powerless around them. This vile oppression is thrown back in their faces as a powerless shepherd is used as the mouthpiece of the all powerful God of everything.

Amos throws out a disgustingly impressive list of the vile oppression that the Israelite leaders have poured out on those around them. Amos frequently throughout the book reminds them that they were once slaves in Egypt themselves who were freed only by the mercy of God. This reminder highlights the twistedness of the people who have now become slave masters and oppresses themselves. This is a far cry from what God has called His people to be, and Amos is calling them to change their ways or suffer judgment. Here's the list...

v. 3 - Not caring about others or the future they have taken peoples' crops and destroyed their fields
v. 6 - Once slaves themselves, they show no mercy and sell others into slavery
v. 9 - They take their greed to deeper levels of depravity by selling their blood relatives into slavery (The descendants of Ishmael and Esau were still living in tribes and nations around Israel)
v.11 - They are pitiless, violent, angry and never-forgiving...the consequences of these sinful actions are still played out in the Middle East today!
v.13 - They kill everyone, including pregnant woman for the sole purpose of taking their land and expanding their holdings. They do not understand that life is more sacred than wealth.
v. 2:1 - They show no respect for the dead
v. 2:4 - They have rejected God's law (obviously)
v. 2:6-7 - They will do anything to feed their insatiable greed...they sell the righteous for money...they oppress the needy for something as small as a pair of sandals (Anyone reminded of Nike here? Paying poor laborers in other countries a few cents an hour to sew shoes.)

2:13-16 - They have become arrogant in every aspect of their lives. They believe they can do whatever they want to do because they have earthly power. They believe that might is right. But God, speaking through Amos, makes it clear t them that their human strength will fail in the end and they will reap the toxic harvest that they have sown. Never forget that you cannot save fades...physical strength fails...our trust must be in God alone.

3:12 - Though Israel will face judgment and destruction for their sins...there will be a remaining remnant that survives because God is always faithful to His covenant even when the Israelites are not. Like the last bits of a lamb stolen from the mouth of a lion...there will be some piece of Israel that survives the coming wrath of God. There is always light at the end of the tunnel...always hope...God always relents for those who repent and turn back to Him.