Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Habakkuk Chapters 1-3

1:2ff - Habakkuk cries out to God as he looks around at the terrible things that are going on in the world around him. I think we can all relate to this. He says,"Why are you not doing something? Why are you not acting on behalf of your people to save them?" He like many of us wants to know why God allows bad things to happen to His people. How many times have you been there? Let's see how God responds...

1:5ff - God answers back by instructing Habakkuk to really look around at the world. God is working His plans throughout all the nations of the world, and He tells Habakkuk, "Even if I told you the whole plan...showed you the big would not believe." It is impossible for us to fully understand God's intricate and eternal thinking plan as it is being worked out in the world. God is using even the pagan nations of the world to bring about His justice and will. I think all of us have some experience seeing how God was at work in difficult times in our just remind yourself that He is doing that with every human being that exists. When we are able to step away from the hard things we go through (That often blind us to the work God is doing), we often get a clearer picture of the amazing things that God is doing in the world.

1:13 - Habakkuk decides to reword his question to God, because he was apparently not satisfied with the first response. This time he says, "Well, why do you allow the evil people in the world to be so successful God?" This is another question that we have probably all asked ourselves at one time or another in our lives. Why does it seem like the powerful, corrupt people of the world win out in the end?

Chapter 2 - The entire chapter is really God's answer to Habakkuk's second question. He gives a vision of 5 woes to the prophet...the five woes represent the weaknesses and ultimate destruction of the evil strong. They may think they have it all because of wealth and power, but God assures Habakkuk that the oppressors will be humbled before God. There will be justice in the just doesn't always come on our timetable.

2:4 - The pagan nations are bloated on their own arrogance...they are "puffed up" on their strength, intelligence, victories - but there is no good in them. They may have some small victories and success int his fallen world, but ultimately their legacy is one of true weakness, failure and destruction. God reminds Habakkuk (and us) that the righteous will live faithfully. What does that mean? Living faithfully is about trusting God and placing our hope in Him, and then living accordingly. There is no debate on faith versus works because in reality, those who are faithfully are actively living out their faith. You will know the faith of the truly righteous by the way they live their lives.

The 5 woes - 1.) Woe to those who take what is not theirs. 2.) Woe to those who do evil things to be successful. 3.) Woe to those who serve themselves through violence. 4.) Woe to those who pour out anger and hatred on others. 5.) Woe to those who worship things created by man. You can see these anti-God behaviors at work in every corner of our society every day (Often even in churches). Probably wouldn't hurt to honestly hold your own life up to this list and hold yourself accountable.

2:18 - We do this all the time and I don't understand it at all (even though I often get caught up in it). How could we ever be so absurd as to worship something that we made? To put our hope in things that human beings have created? To allow our joy to be centered around the possessions that we own? That is worship...and that is vile.

3:6 - I love the phrase used here - "His were the everlasting ways." Habakkuk sees a vision of God walking the earth and ca tell immediately that there is this eternal quality to the way of God. The path of God is the way to everlasting is the way into eternity. He is the beginning and the end...He is the Ancient of Days...probably wouldn't hurt to follow Him!

3:8, 9, 12, 13, 14 and 15 - All of these verses describe God in the terms of military might. Habakkuk sees God in his vision as the Creator/Warrior...bringing redemption and creative energy through His judgment. I was wondering, do we ever think about God in these terms? Do we think about what it means to run smack dab into out Creator/Warrior God? I believe we like to think mostly about think about the mercy and love and "let all the little children come to me" and dying for our sins...but we forget about awe-inspiring power of Jesus. We don't focus as much on the Revelation Jesus who shows up riding a war horse with a sword coming out of his mouth...we don't focus on the Jesus who when confronted by armed enemies in the garden, causes them to cower through the power of his presence. Jesus came not just to die for your sins, but to crucify the sin and corruption within you. He will always be the warrior as well as the Creator.

3:17-18 - Through his interaction with God, Habakkuk has grown in faith and come to see the truth of the situation. After questioning the way that God runs the world, Habakkuk now ends this book confidently and says that no matter what happens...he will rejoice in the Lord and trust Him always. I think this book teaches us alot about our relationship with God. When you have questions and doubts...bring them to God. He is big enough to handle your toughest questions and if you are willing to listen to Him, you can walk away confidently knowing that God is in control and He is worthy of our faith.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Nahum Chapters 1-3

Another book of the Bible covered in one day...we are cooking now!

1:2,3 and 7 - These verses say that the Lord is jealous, avenging, slow to anger, great in power and good - how do those things all apply simultaneously? We have to remember that jealousy is not evil when it is based on committed is right for a husband to be jealous of a wife who has cheated on him with another man. God is jealous for His people, who He is in a covenant relationship with...because they continually reject Him for false gods. Vengeance is God's, because He is ultimately the one and only true judge and authority in all creation. Though He is great in power and could crush people at a whim, He is also slow to anger and treats His deceitful people with mercy. Thus God is good.

1:11 - This verse may be referring to a single particular unnamed Assyrian king, or a long line of corrupt leaders in Assyria. The main point is that they have been given the responsibility of leadership and authority and they have used it to infuse their culture with corruption.

1:14 - This passage is directly addressed to the corrupt kings of Assyria. Nahum says that their power and their gods will be utterly destroyed. This is important for us to understand because in the ancient world, pagan kings believed that their strength was derived from the gods that they worshipped. They built temples and idols for their gods and believed that any victories they had were granted by these gods. When conquering armies came in, they would utterly destroy the temple of the fallen king so that everyone would no that their power was gone and their gods were destroyed. Nahum tells them that this fate is inevitable, and archeology has shown us that there is clear evidence of pagan temples within Nineveh being totally destroyed.

2:3-5 - This is a detailed description of the proud Assyrians assembled for battle. It reminds me of the Spartans from "300" - adorned in red capes with huge shields and spears. This must have been quite an intimidating sight in the ancient world, to see a "sea" of red arrayed before you. Unfortunately for them, their human strength is about to fail...

2:8 - It is not enough that they have powerful armies to protect them. When the judgment of God comes down on Nineveh - the proud warriors in red go running for the hills. They disappear like water draining out of a pool. Their commanders try to tell them to stay and fight, but the once proud army scatters in fear before the Lord.

2:11-12 - The Assyrian kings and their rules liked to refer to themselves as lions. And they lived a great deal like lions - they used their strength to overpower foes and devour the nations around them. They would bring back the spoils of war like a lions drags a carcass back to its den. Nahum mocks them with his prophecy - he says, "Where are your lions now...where is the den filled with plunder? God's wrath will take away all their strength.

3:4 - The whore of greed and idolatry has lured the people of Assyria/Nineveh in with false promises of fulfillment and they will pay for their participation with her. When you choose to believe that more of everything is what you need...more sex, more money, more power, more honor, will end up unfulfilled and having lived a life that was full of destruction. This tempting prostitute is still alive and well today, and trying to work her charms on any who will give her a chance...fight for freedom from her hold. Find satisfaction in God, not the things of this is the only thing that will ever bring you fulfillment.

3:12 - Fortresses should give the impression of strength, yet Nahum describes the fortresses of Assyria as pieces of ripe, delicious fruit. Ready to be taken and devoured by their enemies. There is no human creation that can stand against the will of God.

3:17 - The leaders have devoured the land and people like a plague of locusts...used them to gain great wealth and influence...left them corrupted and broken. Now at the first sign of trouble, they will scatter. It seems that they are not the lions that they thought they were...they are actually just insects.

3:19 - Nineveh was given a chance to repent and turn back to God through Jonah, but 100 years later this is their legacy...they have poured out evil on everyone who has come in contact with them. This would be a great time to take some time to think about your own legacy...what kind of influence are you having on the people people around you?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Micah Chapters 4-7

4:2 - As we have seen time and time again in the Old Testament, the heart of God has always been for ALL of humanity - not just the Jewish people. Micah foresees a future where people from every nation will turn to God and follow in His ways. We live in that future! There is still a lot of work to do, but praise God that salvation is available to everyone.

4:6-7 - God often uses the weak to shame the strong. Matthew 5:5 says, "Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth." And we have to understand it is not the meek who "win" - they do not overwhelm the world through sheer numbers...the meek are blessed because God is at work for the cause of the meek. We see it here in this is God who conquers on behalf of the meek and oppressed. He gathers the humble together into an unconquerable kingdom while the arrogant are doomed to go down with the sinking ship of trusting their own strength.

5:2 - Ah, this verse reminds me of Christmas, because that is when I hear it every year. This is one of the many prophecies about the birth of Jesus Christ. It was fulfilled when Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem.

5:4 - Micah goes on to describe the future rule who will be born in Bethlehem: He will have the strength and the majesty of God. Jesus was God in the flesh...exhibiting love like no one has ever seen in the life of man. When we look at the life of Jesus we see the glory of God and God's name is glorified. He is our hope and our salvation.

6:8 - God does not require blind rule-following and offerings that are not born from love...He has actually shown us what is good and right through His own character. Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with God. This is how you live out your faith. You don't just believe in do actively work with God to bring justice to the world. To love kindness means that it pervades every area of your life. And to walk humbly with God is to connect in relationship with the God who created is the only path to joy and true life.

7:7 - After a large passage of scriptures describing the corrupt culture around him, Micah gives us his response to that corruption. He says, "I am going to trust God, wait for His salvation and follow His lead." I look at the descriptions of their corrupt culture and see a lot of similarities between that society and ours (greed, lies, selfishness, etc.). It is easy for Christians to get frustrated with the state of the world and convince themselves that there is nothing they can do to bring change. But we can do what Micah did...we can refuse to give up...refuse to give in and trust that if we live for God, He will take care of the rest.

7:8 - Our enemies may rejoice when we fall, but it does not matter. God is strong in our failure. When we fall, He is there to pick us up. When we are blinded by darkness, He will bring us into the light. Trust in Him and you will find the peace that passes all will not have to have the acceptance of the world because you have the love of God.

7:9 - Micah lays out for us a beautiful explanation of the way that salvation works. Micah knows that he is a sinful man who is utterly broken. He knows that there is no hope for him outside of God and that he needs God to defend him and give him undeserved freedom. Thank you Jesus! He is our defender before God. He is the sacrifice for our sins. He is the way, the truth and the life.

7:18-19 - Micah closes his book, with an amazing description of our awesome God. There is none like Him - He alone is God. He delights in love...offers us undeserved forgiveness...and has cast off our sins. That is a God who offers hope....that is a God worth living and dying for.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Micah Chapters 1-3

1:4 - This verse and the ones that precede it give a powerful visual of God's presence. One of the commentaries I read about this passage said that Micah may have been taking the imagery from a popular hymn about God from that time period. The audience listening would have instantly engaged with what he was talking about...these type of descriptions were very popular with the Jewish people because they highlighted the power of the Israelite God. Unfortunately for them, Micah is trying to get their attention by talking about the power of God, because the Jews have allowed corruption and pagan idolatry to overrun their culture. Micah is telling them, that when God shows up, nothing can stand before Him. You cannot come in contact with God and remain unchanged...if the mountains melt like wax before Him, what am I going to do but be transformed?

1:7 - The Jewish people had taken idols of false gods from cultures around them and basically prostituted themselves out to these false deities. They gave their worship and sacrifices to statues instead of giving them to the one true God. So Micah prophecies that a conquering army will come in, destroy their golden statues, melt them down, divide the money amongst themselves and allow the foreign soldiers to use that money to buy prostitutes for themselves (A common activity for pagan military men). The religious prostitution of the Israelites will lead to their destruction...and giving our worship to things other than God does no better for us today.

2:1 - Micah speaks of especially vile men who devise schemes to rob their fellow countrymen at night and then carry them out brazenly in broad daylight. Typically thieves wait until the night to do their foul deeds, but these men know that the power they have in Israel will allow them to take whatever they want, whenever they want it. The greatest thieves of all are the corrupt leaders of Israel at this time, and this still rings true today. We arrest countless numbers of people every year for small-times thefts (which is absolutely what should happen), yet corruption at the highest levels of every country on earth allows politicians and corporations to steal billions of dollars with no repercussions.

2:7 - The words of God are seen as true and powerful by those who do everything they can to walk in righteousness. Yet these same words are offensive, ridiculous, impossible, and painful to the ears of those who live only to serve themselves. Allow the Word of God to transform your life...don't try to transform it into what you want to hear.

2:11 - Micah describes a preacher that the Jewish people would appreciate at this time in history. He says, "You want to hear teachers who lies to you and tell you what you want to hear...who tell you that life is all about seeking pleasure for yourself." They have become so corrupt that they only want their leaders to tell them what they want to hear. I want to challenge you to look around at our culture today...what kind of preachers do we want to listen to in the States? Look at what we buy...look at what commercials are trying to sell us...I think we are alot more similar to the idolatrous Israelites than we would like to imagine. What can you do to bring change?

3:2-3 - This is some very disturbing imagery that Micah uses here...and while the leaders in Israel are not literally consuming their people, they are devouring their resources. The leaders in Israel at this point in time care only about themselves and will destroy anyone who gets in their way. Fortunately, leaders don't act like this in the sophisticated current day world we live in, right?

3:11 - At every level of leadership in Israel there is corruption. These are the people that should be leading and creating accountability: judges, priests and prophets. Yet these men care only for their own personal gain. They use their positions to acquire as much money as they possibly can. They are destroying the worship of God in Israel, yet they have found some way to convince themselves that God is still with them. They are delusional. Ah, the power of self-deception.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Once again, we'll cover the entire book...

1:3 - There are some initial questions that jump out in your head, that the text does not answer here - why did Jonah do it? Why did he refuse to listen to God? Why did he run away? Well, we get our answer a few chapters later in 4:2, where we see Jonah lamenting the fact that God is merciful...LAMENTING!!! He in whining in chapter 4, and explains that he ran away because he knew God was going to be merciful with the people of Nineveh and he didn't want them to receive mercy. The Ninevites were the enemies of God's people and he wanted to see them destroyed for their sins. Jonah is a follower of God, but he is not doing a good job reflecting the nature of God into the about you?

1:3b - We read here that Jonah thinks he can run away from the presence of God and we find it laughable, but he was just functioning under the influence of a common ancient worldview. Many people believed that gods were constrained to certain areas of land...each populated region believed that specific gods lived in their areas and would constantly go to war with other gods. When one people group conquered another, they believed - falsely - that their gods had defeated the other gods. Though we see in Jonah's prayer that he knows God created the heavens and the earth, his attempt to run away with God shows us that he was struggling with breaking free from the pagan cultural influences around him. Jonah soon finds out that God has no boundaries. When you think about your own life, what kind of cultural influences keep you from truly living out a Christ-like faith?

1:12-13 - This is very interesting to me...while Jonah failed to show mercy to the people of Nineveh - these sailors refused to throw a man overboard who was endangering their lives. The pagan sailors show more mercy than the prophet of God. In this story, who is acting more in line with the nature of God?

1:16 - Again we see the contrast between the sailors and Jonah...they see one sign from God and immediately respond with heartfelt worship. Jonah on the other hand, is told directly by God to go and speak to the people of Nineveh and he responds with rebellious refusal. The men who know nothing about God or how to worship interact with Him out of authentic love and the prophet who has worshipped God his entire life interacts with selfishness. Let this be a lesson for all who call themselves believers - humble worship is infintely more important than religious ritual.

3:5 - Yet again, Jonah is made to look bad by pagan men and women who are about to be destroyed by God because they are so corrupt. When the people of Nineveh are faced with the truth of their vile actions they immediately repent and throw themselves on the mercy of God. They are more open to the Word of God and willing to be changed by it than Jonah is. Maybe churches should spend less time pouring endless amounts of teaching and resources into the lives of the saved and do everything they can to share truth with those who do not know God.

3:7-8 - I really like these Ninevites...did you see the way they respond to Jonah's words with community repentance? How cool is that? There is no finger pointing. No blame-game. No excuses for their actions. They all take responsibility for the corrupt culture they have created...the entire community throws itself on the mercy of God. This is a really healthy picture of communal accountability. We can learn alot from these people. Instead of trying to blame everyone else for how bad the world is, we need to accept the part we have played in the corruption of our culture, repent and take steps to bring change.

3:9 - I love their attitudes here. Jonah did not come into town and say, "Hey, if you guys get your act together, God will relent on the destruction coming your way." He basically walks into town and says, "In forty days, you are all dead (I'm guessing he said it out of morbid glee)!" The people who see how wrong they have been, repent and change their lives, not knowing whether God will relent on the punishment or not...that is true repentance. They are not just trying to get out of punishment...they see the error of their ways and feel truly sorry for the way that they have lived. This is beautiful!!!

4:4ff - How many times do I waste my anger on meaningless things in life? How often have I gotten more upset about a broken household item or a football game, than about the injustice and oppression that exists in the world? How often have I gotten terribly upset when some has barely slighted me and failed to register any emotion for starving people? What can you do...what can I use emotions within me to respond appropriately in righteous anger to the things that God cares let that anger fuel a creative force within me to actually do something to bring positive change?