Monday, July 23, 2018

Daily Bible Reading - July 23, 2018

Today's Reading:

1 Corinthians 10

2 Kings 3

Amos 8

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading   

There is a curious connection between our reading in 1 Kings 22 (from a few days back) and Amos 8 (from today). Both chapters bring out the point about how vitally important it is to hear the Word of Yahweh.

In Amos 8:11-12 it says, "Behold, the days come, saith Yahweh God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the Words of Yahweh: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the Word of Yahweh, and shall not find it."

I believe we are already witnessing the early stages of this coming spiritual famine. People go to church and hear a "feel-good" message. All too often folks go to the "House of God" only to get flattered, patted on the head, and told that everything is just fine. 

Many are satisfied with this "peace-and-safety-style" message. They want a church where the messages make them feel good. When someone tells them about End-times, or the need to prepare to meet God, they grumble against the speaker complaining about the "negativity" and  "doom and gloom". They want to hear just what they want to hear. In fact, they purposely choose preachers, teachers, and leaders who will comfort them by saying only and exactly what they want to hear, even when it isn't the truth:

2 Timothy 4:3-4 "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."
1 Thessalonians 5:3  "For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." 
Jeremiah 8:11  "For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace."
Because so many professing Christians have "itching ears" to hear messages of "peace"  and "safety", hearing the real Word of God is growing increasingly more difficult. Those who dare to speak it are ostracized, socially pressured, or just ignored altogether. These ministers lose their pastoral positions. And these ministries increasingly struggle to make ends meet - so poorly are they supported. Under this pressure, our society has actually created the spiritual famine of Amos 8:11, making it more and more rare to hear the real Word of Yahweh.

This terrible condition also existed in the time of ancient Israel and Judah in the time of Jehoshaphat. Israel's king Ahab was allied with Judah's king Jehoshaphat to defeat the Syrian insurrection at Ramothgilead. Prior to the battle, king Jehoshaphat asked if they could "inquire of Yahweh" about whether or not they should go to battle. 

The king of Israel called 400 prophets and asked them to prophesy. Now all these supposed prophets of Yahweh were spiritual "sell-outs". They had been instructed to tickle the king's ears, foretelling "peace" and "safety". This they all did! Now after hearing 400 prophets of Yahweh telling them that they would surely be victorious, you would think that would have settled the matter. But it didn't! Some part of Jehoshaphat's soul knew that this "peace" and "safety" message the real Word of Yahweh. And he was hungry for the truth! 

"Don't you have any other prophets?" he asked the king of Israel. 

As we have already read, the true prophet was called. But before having audience with the two kings, he was forewarned to join the message which the prior 400 prophets had already given. 

Probably in a tongue-in-cheek manner, the prophet agrees with the 400 prophets. He tells the kings they can be assured of success. But the kings reprimand him, demanding the truth. Then, the prophet tells them that Jehoram will be slain. The bad news of the prophet isn't well received. He is even imprisoned for daring to give a doom and gloom message. But in spite of its lack of popularity, the message of this prophet is the true Word of Yahweh. And it comes to pass exactly as the prophet warned.

Today, even more so than in Jehoshaphat's time, there is a famine of hearing the Word of Yahweh. And the choice is really yours. Will you seek teachers who say what you want to hear, as did Ahab? Or do you want to hear the true Word of Yahweh, as did Jehoshaphat? 

If, like Jehoshaphat, you want the truth - God's true Word - I encourage you to revisit the blog of January 9, to help you on that vital journey. 

May it be that each of us have a heart for the true Word of God, whether or not His Message is popular or comforting. Let us love the Truth. Only then will have a continual supply of Heavenly Bread, throughout the greatest spiritual famine which is already beginning upon this earth. 

Daily Bible Reading - July 22, 2018

Today's Reading:

1 Corinthians 9

2 Kings 1-2

Amos 7

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading   

Today I will focus on a few key verses in Amos 7. In Amos 7:7-9, we find a reference to Yahweh using a "plumb line". As John Ritenbaugh explains in Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two):
In construction, the plumb line tests whether what was erected is perpendicular to the square, that is, if it is straight up and down, if it is upright. It provides a standard against which one can measure what he has built. Metaphorically, when God draws near with the plumb line, He is looking for those people who are living and abiding in His grace and His Law.
By cross-referencing the concept of the "plumb line" with other Bible prophets on the subject, we can flesh out the details of this spiritual analogy. For example, the prophet Isaiah associates the plumb line with righteous Judgment.
Isaiah 28:16-17  "Therefore thus saith Yahweh GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place."
Jeremiah further connects the (plumb) line of Yahweh with the Judgment of the Almighty. But Jeremiah makes it plain that the plumb line of the Most High is used for spiritual measurement. In an earthly court of law, this would be the stage of judgment which is intended to determine guilt or innocence. After this initial stage of judgment, sentencing can be appropriately carried out. In Yahweh's righteous Judgment, His plumb line indicates the process of taking our spiritual measure. 

If a person doesn't "measure up" through living with Grace-empowered obedience to His Standards, the sentencing of the Almighty is imminent. And what is it which causes the person to not measure up to Yahweh's plumb line test? Turning away from the Law of Yahweh:
Lamentations 2:8-10  "Yahweh hath purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion: He hath stretched out a line, He hath not withdrawn His Hand from destroying: therefore He made the rampart and the wall to lament; they languished together. Her gates are sunk into the ground; He hath destroyed and broken her bars: her king and her princes are among the Gentiles: the Law is no more; her prophets also find no vision from Yahweh. The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground, and keep silence: they have cast up dust upon their heads; they have girded themselves with sackcloth: the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground."
Yahweh's end-time people will be tested, just as He tested Israel of old. What will Yahweh's spiritual plumb line test reveal about our Christian growth (I Corinthians 3:9-16)? We are commanded to grow "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). From this we see that the plumb line is God's revelation of Himself as the Standard.

God's law is the primary vehicle He uses to reveal Himself.  It defines the Laws of His Kingdom. If we want to be in His Kingdom and live as He does, we must obey His Law.
But obeying God's Law in no way minimizes grace. God revealed Himself to Israel first as Redeemer and then as Lawgiver. He freed His people from their slavery in Egypt before He gave them the standard of His law. Grace precedes law. God gives grace first, but He does not leave His people ignorant of the life that pleases Him, which is revealed in His Law.

The plumb line combines grace and Law, and God will test us against both. If we rely on His grace without Law, or on His Law without grace, we will not pass the test. If either is abused, we will not measure up to the standard.

Leviticus 19 shows that the revelation of the Law is important because it is a verbal description of God's nature. Our God is a holy God (verse 2), and He expects His representatives to be holy also. But how do we become holy?

After God redeems us from sin and extends to us His Spirit and grace—His free, unmerited election, He expects us to follow His instructions. The remainder of Leviticus 19 fills in the details—we become holy by doing these things. These actions reflect God's nature. Since God is holy, His law is holy, and if we follow His holy law, we can—with the indwelling of His Holy Spirit—grow to be holy like our holy God. (John Ritenbaugh, Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)