Tags: abortion, commentary on Habakkuk, God's promises, God's will, Habakkuk 1, Sunday School lessons on Habakkuk, terrorism, theodicy
Lord, we know that there is nothing too difficult for You. We thank You for your strength. When things are easy and smooth, we know that is because of You. Thank You for those times. When things are difficult and rough, we know You haven’t forgotten Your children, and You have not lost control. Instead, You are teaching us to depend on You, and You are showing Yourself to be strong in our weakness. Thank You for those times, too. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.
Habbakuk’s name meant “to embrace” or “to wrestle.” It was a fitting name because he did both. He wrestled with God figuratively and he embraced God by faith. God doesn’t mind when His servants wrestle with Him in order to know Him better. What He has a problem with is when they ignore Him.
Around 600 B.C. the Babylonians were set to invade Judah and its capital city, Jerusalem. They would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple there around 587 B.C. Habakkuk was probably a priest who was also called by God to be a prophet. When he received his vision from God concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, he questioned God – much like Job had done before him. As he questioned God, he began to accuse God of being uncaring and unfeeling, and of being double-minded, and of falling down on His job. These accusations were, of course, false, and from God’s responses we learn that God is steadfast. His promises can be trusted.
Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.
Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you.
God promises to honor faithfulness and obedience, and to punish wickedness. When we begin to ask God, “What are You going to do about all the unrighteousness going on in this world?” we must accept His divine will. We cannot prescribe for God the means that He will use to punish the wicked, or to chasten His Own children.
There is a lot of talk about terrorism these days. Many would like to see God punish the terrorists, but what if terrorism is God’s warning, or His chastening against His Own people? We don’t like to think He would use wicked heathens as His tool for correction or for punishment. Since 1970 approximately 4000 Americans have been killed by terrorists, but today – if today is an average day – 3200 Americans will be killed in one day by mothers and abortionists.
The people of Judah in the days of Habakkuk and Jeremiah and Nahum had seen plagues and droughts and military defeats, and the prophets had told them these were warnings from God to repent. God knows when to wait for repentance and when hearts have become hardened.
Tags: Biblical fools, Biblical wisdom, evangelism, evangelism devotions, evangelism training, gullibility, Proverbs 14, soulwinning, witnessing
The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.
Two types of people are being contrasted here: “the simple” and “the prudent.” The simple are shown as a bad example. They are not simple in the sense of being uncomplicated. They are simple in the sense of being unwise, perhaps even foolish. The prudent are wise. The characteristic that distinguishes the simpleton in this verse is that he is gullible. He believes everything he hears.
The one exception where it’s okay to “believe every word” is the Bible itself – which is obvious from multiple other passages. But here, what is being described is a person with no discernment: someone who foolishly “takes at face value” whatever he encounters. The prudent man, on the other hand, is careful about what is presented to him.
This principle – a healthy willingness to evaluate – has various and sundry applications, and one is in evangelism – specifically when it comes to dialoguing with someone about whether or not he is saved. A quick nod of assent to the question, “So, are you a Christian?” should probably not be enough evidence to end the inquiry when you are trying to present the Gospel to someone you do not know well. Follow-up questions about the when, where, why, and how, and by Whom, would constitute “looking well unto your going” when you are hoping to lead someone to Christ.
A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident.
Again, the wise man and the fool are contrasted. Wise men see evil and are afraid of damaging their testimony and the effectiveness of their Gospel witness. They also fear the Lord Whom they love for saving them. Fools “rage.” They go on a tirade against the idea that they can’t do whatever they want, and they are confident – but it is a false confidence. It is a misplaced self-confidence and a dangerous confidence that their relationship with the Lord makes them immune to discipline and correction.
He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.
This verse is little different from the previous two in Proverbs 14. It is not a contrast between a “right” person and a “wrong” person. It is a contrast between a “wrong” person and a “more wrong” person. A short-tempered person loses his cool and does something dumb. It’s not excusable, but it is chalked up to the heat of passion, and can be repented of and repaired more easily. However, the person who coldly calculates a wicked plan, then carries it out, is not seen as bumbling or irrational. He is hated, even by those who are worldly, because he has first shown hatred to others.
Let’s remember to share the Gospel with others in a way that is honestly probing, non-hypocritical, and patiently kind.
Tags: Adam, Cinco de Mayo devotions, commentary on Matthew, inheritance, Matthew 5, meekness, Sermon on the Mount, Sunday School lessons on Matthew, the beatitudes
The first two beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount deal with people who are blessed because of the situation in which they find themselves: the poor in spirit and those who mourn. But the third beatitude pronounces a benediction upon people who are exercising a certain virtue:
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
A person who has the capacity to be meek is someone who already appears blessed. It is a person who has strength, but then, in humility, and out of a desire to love and serve others, brings that strength under control.
Jesus says that the blessing for being meek is inheriting the earth. How much of a blessing is this, though, really? The earth – the arena of Adam’s fallen and sin-sick race – has become quite a shabby place. And perhaps that is the point at which Jesus connects the idea of meekness with receiving it as an inheritance.
See, Adam, the first man, was supposed to exercise dominion over the earth. This was a great honor. As the image-bearer of his Supreme Creator he was supposed to use his position to make His Creator seem great – in other words, to “glorify” Him. However, Adam – acting as our accurate representative even before we showed up – blew it big time. He did not glorify his Creator. He acted like the Creator was a promise-breaker: unwilling, unable, or at least unlikely to keep His Word concerning disobedience. And therefore Adam lost his dominion and our “inheritance,” if you will.
So, here we are, a little over 6000 years later, give or take, and the Creator has managed to redeem us at the greatest possible cost, and restore our inheritance. But how do we claim it? By acting like it should have been ours all along? By no means. We are to remember that this earth is a temporary inheritance compared to the eternal home we shall inherit in Christ Jesus. We are to think of Heaven as our home, and to think of ourselves as foreigners in this world. A faithful ambassador of his king, when visiting a foreign land, does not set himself up as a “figurehead.” Instead, he makes it clear that he is on a mission for his Lord. He brings under control the authority he has been granted, and exercises it temperately, reminding everyone that “the earth” is going to be reclaimed by its rightful Owner one day soon, and that He will deal accordingly with those who pretended that they owned it, and that He will demand an accounting from those He sent to be His emissaries.
Tags: Acts 1, birth of Jesus, commentary on Matthew, Jesus Christ, King Herod, manger scenes, Matthew 2, Matthew 3, Nativity, Sunday School lessons on Matthew
Our Savior’s name is “Jesus.” His title is the “Christ,” because He was anointed and sent by the Father. His description is “Immanuel,” because He is “God with us.”
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
Gentiles came to worship Jesus as King of the Jews, but the traditional manger scenes are inaccurate. The Magi arrived much later.
The Jewish people themselves did not recognize Jesus as their king. Herod the Great was called “king” because of the influence of Marc Antony on the Senate in Rome. Herod was a descendant of Esau, whereas Jesus was a descendant of Jacob. Esau was carnal and Jacob was spiritual. Esau was worldly and Jacob was godly.
Herod died in 4 B.C. and Jesus was born in 6 or 5 B.C. Jesus had a reputation of being “from Nazareth,” even though He was born in Bethlehem, because He grew up in Nazareth. Nazareth was a humble place, and this prepared Him for a life of humility. As a parent, your prayers for your children may be answered in their persecution and humiliation. Contrary to the cliche’ whereby it sounds noble to want your children to have all the things you never had as a child, there is no command in the Bible to give them all the things that we never had. Sometimes we perceive over-bearing parents as legalistic when in reality they are just preparing their children for adversity for Christ’s sake later in life. Will a child who is embarrassed to dress modestly ever stand up in public and proclaim Christ? Will he ever knock on a stranger’s door and confront him about the condition of his soul? Jesus “of Nazareth” was probably used to being looked down upon, scorned, and ridiculed.
Matthew Chapter 3 records the first information on John the Baptist. John the Baptist appears in the New Testament of the Bible, but he was not the first New Testament prophet. He was actually the last Old Testament (Covenant) prophet. I doubt he would be any more popular today than he was in his own day. As people gathered to hear his message, he called the religious leaders a generation of vipers.
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
Lord, help us to turn away from our idols, and to turn toward You. Help us to turn our faces, and our feet, and our minds, and most of all our hearts, to You. Lord, turn Your face toward us. Draw near to us, Lord. We don’t say this lightly, for Your presence will destroy the unholy and the vain – the empty and foolish things which stand in places where only Your glory should stand. We make a dangerous request, Lord, for You are holy, but we do it with great trust in Your mercy, and in the name of Christ Jesus. Amen.
Tags: Acts 1, Comforter, Holy Spirit, John 14, Luke 3, Luke 4, Matthew 1, ministry of the Holy Spirit, Paraclete, the Ascension
Do You Know the Way? (John 14)
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
“Comforter” is translated from the Greek word Parakletos or “Paraclete,” meaning one who comes alongside to pick you up when you are hurt or weary, and to encourage you as he goes with you.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
The promise of the Paraclete was a mysterious promise. In the Old Testament He was known, but He seemed to be poured out upon only select anointed individuals, and only for temporary time periods. Jesus promised that He would abide with believers forever, and the Holy Spirit is not second fiddle, so to speak, to Jesus. In fact, He reinforces and perfectly identifies with the ministry of Jesus.
He was there at the incarnation of Jesus in His conception.
But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
He was there at Jesus’s baptism to empower His earthly ministry.
And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.
He was there as Jesus battled Satan and was tempted.
And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
He was there at Jesus’s Ascension to take His place.
Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:
He is here today, and if you will yield to Him you will experience the fulfillment of the promise of the Paraclete in your life.
Next time, we will see the provision of peace.
Tags: 1st Commandment, 2nd Commandment, 3rd Commandment, commentary on Exodus, Decalogue, Exodus 20, idolatry, Sunday School lessons on Exodus, Suzerainty Treaties, Ten Commandments
Exodus 20 contains one of the most well-known passages in the Bible. We usually refer to it as “The Ten Commandments.” Theologians call it “The Decalogue,” or “The Ten Words.”
The word “commandments” isn’t even used until Verse 6, but there is certainly nothing wrong with calling them the “Ten Commandments,” although they might be more properly thought of as the “sanctions” section of the Mosaic (Old) Covenant, which was in the form of a suzerainty treaty.
A suzerain is a greater king or overlord who enters into a covenant or agreement with a “lesser” king or nation, known as the “prince” or “lord” or “vassal.” A suzerainty treaty is a treaty – an agreement containing terms or conditions – between a greater king and a lesser king, ruler, nation, or group. The Decalogue itself is not a suzerainty treaty, but it is part of the suzerainty treaty that we call the Old Covenant. The Decalogue is similar to the U.S. Constitution, and the other 600 or so laws in the Old Covenant are similar to America’s federal statutes.
The first Word of the Decalogue is:
And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
This prohibits idolatry. It does not mean that there are other divine beings, with God being the greatest one. It means that human beings are forbidden from thinking of any created thing or being, as being above, or equal to, God. “Before Me” doesn’t mean that God is number one, with some other god as number two. It means not to place anyone or anything (even anything fictitious) “in opposition to God” or to worship anything other than Him “in His presence” (which is everywhere).
The worship of any other being, or the ascription to any entity other than God of a status greater than or equal to God, would be considered by Him to be disloyalty, treachery, and an attack on His glory and His name.
We tend to think of the First Commandment as having a different application today from the application it had for Moses and the Israelites, but, actually, it applied to people in the ancient world in a very similar way. The little g gods that people worshiped in the ancient world were typically representations of their perceived needs or pleasures – their life-sustaining activities and their “fun” or distracting activities. In the First Commandment, God reminded them and us that He created us, and that He obviously “owns” us, but also that our activities, our joys, even our very thought processes, are to be exclusively centered around Him. If you are a parent, your two greatest responsibilities might be the clear teaching of the Gospel (which includes Who Christ is) to your children, and helping them to be utterly convinced of the absolute supremacy of God.
The second Word of the Decalogue is definitely referential to the first, but it is also definitely a separate Word:
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
An overly literal, out-of-context reading of this commandment would seem to prohibit the representation of any creature. In that case, it would be sinful to have a toy fluffy pony or an army man or even a sculpture of a tree. However, when we recognize that the Second Commandment is tied to the idea of “worship” and therefore idolatry, then we get a truer perspective. The worship of false gods in ancient times always involved imagery – figures that in those days were “graven.” This is still being prohibited by the Second Word, but the command goes even further, as it prohibits us from making a making a mental image of God as being so loving as to be unjust, or as being so kind as to not really have wrath. In other words, we break the Second Commandment any time that we make up a god in our minds that is not revealed in Scripture. This happens frequently when professing Christians claim that God rewards the “good works” of unconverted sinners by counting them as righteous based on their deeds.
Additionally, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses (and liberal seminary students) are flagrant violators of Word number two. They concoct a false “Jesus,” or they profess to believe something about God based on what they “feel” He is like.
The Third Word is:
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Why would God not hold guiltless those that take His name in vain? Why is this such a serious crime? Because vanity is emptiness masquerading as fullness, and God’s name has great weight. It is empty of neither holiness, nor authority. Taking something “in vain” is ascribing negligible value to it. If there is anything in this universe that’s not vain, it is the Lord our God, and His name is a great gift and a great blessing, because it is a great revelation. God is providing the very air and breath that people are using to mock or to even curse His name.
This is one of the reasons why we shouldn’t flippantly exclaim, “Oh my G–,” or even say or type “OMG” or “gosh” or whatever else fills in for His name. Don’t say Jesus’s name like a curse word. One of the proofs of the depravity of man is the ubiquity of blasphemy and the complete absence of epithets such as “Adolf Hitler!” or “Muhammadd- – n!” or “Buddhad- – n!” I teach my kids not to use God’s name unless we are talking to, or about, God.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 13, Bible catechism, children's catechism, eternal life, Exodus 33, face of God, glory, Heaven, holiness of God, John 4
Question 13: Why can’t you see God?
Answer: God is too holy for me to see Him and live.
And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.
God’s overwhelming holiness is too great for sinful human beings to look upon His unveiled presence without being supernaturally strengthened. This will be one of the great benefits and blessings for Christians in Heaven. We shall be able to gaze upon our Lord in our glorified state without fear.
Other verses to consider:
God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
I Corinthians 13:12
Tags: Jesus Christ, minefields, Proverbs 4, Romans 12, sacrificial living, the body, the Christian walk, the heart, The Path, walking with God
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
Old Testament sacrifices weren’t living sacrifices – at least not for long. When a lamb or a goat or a dove or a bull was sacrificed, it was put to death – then it had no trouble staying on the altar. As New Testament Christians, we are called to present our bodies before the Lord, but I’m thankful we are not called to be dead sacrifices. We are called to be living sacrifices.
This means, among other things, that our bodies need to be God-oriented. They need to be focused on God, moving toward God, and moving with God. Romans 12:2 tells us that we are to accomplish this yielding of our bodies by the renewing of our minds. Proverbs 4 tells us that it starts with our hearts, but it is the same idea.
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
“Keep with diligence” is redundant, because that’s what diligence is: it is taking care of something by watching it closely. The “heart” has control over the more literal body parts.
Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.
Guard your mouth from being froward – from saying something that will cause problems. “Perverse lips” means saying anything wrong – from telling lies, to being hurtful, to cursing.
Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.
Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.
Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.
A little step in either direction takes you out of the path of being a living sacrifice. It makes you a living, but wandering, rebel. Continuing on in a direction, either right or left, will eventually bring you to the point of having made a 180 degree turn – the exact opposite direction.
Remove your foot from evil. People who wander in the minefield are going to get blown up – along with the children and wives and others who were following them.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 9, devotions for teachers, getting started, Isthmian Games, Olympics, races, racing, running, shortcuts
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
I Corinthians 9:24-26
There are many metaphors for life: a battle, a trial, a journey, a puzzle. The Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to compare the Christian life to a race. This would have been a familiar theme for the Corinthian Christians because of the Isthmian Games. The Isthmian Games were a smaller version of the Olympic games. They featured organized athletic contests, including fights and races.
Everyone knows how a race works. Everybody who signs up to run gets to participate, but only one wins. This makes for a good analogy, even though it is not precisely true in the Christian life. As Christians, our prize is the approval of our Master, and we do run to obtain it, but it is not a zero sum game. Christ has enough “well dones” to go around, which means we are competing, but not against each other. It is like we are competing against ourselves.
The prize for winning a race at the Isthmian Games would have been a laurel or a grass crown – which is corruptible. It would look splendid on race day, but it would look like dead straw after a couple of days. In the race of the Christian life, our prize has eternal value.
Running in place or shadow boxing are handy for warming up before an earthly race or fight, but, in spiritual matters, we are not supposed to be playing games. We are affecting the lives of others for the sake of Christ. As fallen sinners, we may expect to encounter our share of relational drama, petty gossiping, even bickering, in-fighting, and childish squabbling, but Christ commands us to be victorious over those things. Our race is well underway, and we don’t have time to play around. We’re going to see King Jesus in a few days, and we don’t want to be ashamed or regretful.
So, let me give you a few things to keep in mind as you hit the ground running and keep your eyes on the prize.
1. Get started right.
Make sure you are saved, and make sure you know the Gospel. If your life is not Gospel-centered, then it’s not Christ-centered, and you are either loitering around the starting line long after the gun has sounded, or you’ve jumped the gun and are going to have to start over.
2. Don’t carry too much weight.
Material possessions will weigh you down in this race. So will cares and concerns and burdens that need to be given to God. You can’t win a race carrying a suitcase full of baggage.
3. Don’t get tangled up with the other runners.
4. Stay on the race track.
Taking a shortcut in a race will get you disqualified – like the lady who may have a taken a subway in the Boston Marathon. There are no shortcuts in the Christian race. You’re going to have to discipline yourself to read your Bible, to pray, to go to church every week, to serve, to love people you don’t feel like loving. You will need to learn to expect suffering, and to recognize it as an an opportunity to glorify God.