Beware the Flattened Fence

May 12, 2014 at 9:38 am | Posted in Isaiah, The Fives | 9 Comments
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God compared the kingdom of Judah to a vineyard. He had planted this vineyard Himself and given it every advantage. He had chosen the most fertile ground and the best vines. He removed the stones and built a strong tower in the midst of it. There was no legitimate reason why the vineyard should not have produced excellent grapes.

http://hilarymurdoch.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/big-grapes.jpg

But it didn’t. It produced “wild grapes:” grapes which were unfit for consumption, and which brought dishonor to the owner of the vineyard. This happened because of the disloyalty, disobedience, and egregious sin of God’s chosen people.

He had given them His promises, His prophets, His Word, His blessings, His victories, and poured out His Spirit upon several of their leaders. Yet they insisted on doing things their own way, and now there would be consequences.

And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:

Isaiah 5:5

Vineyards in those days were bordered by hedges to keep out trespassers, marauders, and thieves.

https://i2.wp.com/s0.geograph.org.uk/geophotos/01/75/05/1750503_173700e5.jpg

If the hedges fell into disrepair or were damaged, the vineyard was exposed to danger and would be destroyed. God was about to allow the hedges protecting Judah to be weakened, broken, and trampled down. The result would be severe chastening and destruction.

What has God planted in your life that is supposed to bring Him glory? Have you been given a Bible, a church, a family, a home? Food, shelter, clothes, health? If so, what has been your response to your Lord? Are you serving Him with passion, zeal, and faithfulness? Are you being a good steward over the vineyard of your life by giving Him praise, and by serving your neighbors in His name? Or is your life a cluster of “wild grapes” gathered for your own pleasure and squandered in your own vain winepress?

How often we hear Christians praying for “a hedge of protection” around our lives! We need to make sure that what we are asking God to protect is actually worth protecting according to His standards.

When God Makes Fun of Your Name

December 10, 2013 at 5:16 pm | Posted in Micah | 3 Comments
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The Old Testament prophet Micah’s name meant “Who is like God?” He was a contemporary of Isaiah, but he prophesied to the rural people in Judah, whereas Isaiah prophesied mainly to the courts in both Jerusalem and Samaria. Micah was from Moresheth, about 25 miles from Jerusalem. He warned of God’s judgment coming upon Israel (the northern kingdom) and Judah (the southern kingdom).

For, behold, the LORD cometh forth out of his place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, [and] as the waters that are poured down a steep place.

Micah 1:3-4

The people of Judah saw what the Assyrians had done to Israel, and it should have caused them to repent. The northern kingdom became openly idolatrous and competed with Judah’s “true” worship. The Assyrians and other gentile peoples brought in by the Assyrians intermingled with the Israelites and became the despised, half-breed Samaritans. Spiritual adultery – in the form of “watered-down” worship – is contagious, and the sickness of Israel began to infect Judah.

For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? is it not Samaria? and what are the high places of Judah? are they not Jerusalem?

Micah 1:5

You can call it worship, but if it’s idolatry, it’s idolatry. You can call it spiritual, but if it’s flesh, it’s flesh. Micah prophesied about the cities in Judah and God mocked their names. God has a way of taking what is nearest and dearest to you, and, if you disregard Him, taking it away, or turning it into a curse.

Declare ye it not at Gath, weep ye not at all: in the house of Aphrah roll thyself in the dust.

Micah 1:10

“Gath” meant “declare it” and “Aphrah” meant “house of dust.”

Pass ye away, thou inhabitant of Saphir, having thy shame naked: the inhabitant of Zaanan came not forth in the mourning of Bethezel; he shall receive of you his standing.

Micah 1:11

“Saphir” meant “beautiful,” “Zaanan” meant “come out,” and “Bethezel” meant “taking away.”

For the inhabitant of Maroth waited carefully for good: but evil came down from the LORD unto the gate of Jerusalem.

Micah 1:12

“Maroth” meant bitterness.

O thou inhabitant of Lachish, bind the chariot to the swift beast: she is the beginning of the sin to the daughter of Zion: for the transgressions of Israel were found in thee. Therefore shalt thou give presents to Moreshethgath: the houses of Achzib shall be a lie to the kings of Israel. Yet will I bring an heir unto thee, O inhabitant of Mareshah: he shall come unto Adullam the glory of Israel. Make thee bald, and poll thee for thy delicate children; enlarge thy baldness as the eagle; for they are gone into captivity from thee.

Micah 1:13-16

“Lachish” meant “team of fast horses,” “Achzib” meant “deception,” and “Mareshah” meant “conqueror.”

These were God’s covenant people, but being in a covenant does not excuse sin. The first sin addressed in Micah Chapter 2 is covetousness.

Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand. And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage. Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, against this family do I devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks; neither shall ye go haughtily: for this time is evil.

Micah 2:1-3

The second sin addressed is false prophecy.

Prophesy ye not, say they to them that prophesy: they shall not prophesy to them, that they shall not take shame. O thou that art named the house of Jacob, is the spirit of the LORD straitened? are these his doings? do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?

Micah 2:6-7

Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted, it shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction. If a man walking in the spirit and falsehood do lie, saying, I will prophesy unto thee of wine and of strong drink; he shall even be the prophet of this people.

Micah 2:10-11

Prophets who are truly from God are seldom popular. One of the marks of a false prophet is that, in telling people they are good, he is loved by the people. Note how the sins of covetousness and false prophecy often go hand in hand.

Check Your Sack Before Jesus Comes Back

March 14, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Posted in Genesis | 2 Comments
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Jacob and his family were out of food, and the famine was still going strong.

And the famine was sore in the land. And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the corn which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said unto them, Go again, buy us a little food. And Judah spake unto him, saying, The man did solemnly protest unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you. If thou wilt send our brother with us, we will go down and buy thee food: But if thou wilt not send him, we will not go down: for the man said unto us, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you. And Israel said, Wherefore dealt ye so ill with me, as to tell the man whether ye had yet a brother? And they said, The man asked us straitly of our state, and of our kindred, saying, Is your father yet alive? have ye another brother? and we told him according to the tenor of these words: could we certainly know that he would say, Bring your brother down? And Judah said unto Israel his father, Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go; that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones. I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever:

Genesis 43:1-9

Judah stepped up to the plate for his family. Maybe he learned a lesson from the incident with Tamar.

Jacob sent his sons back to Egypt, and he reluctantly sent Benjamin with them. Now the brothers had three main problems:

1. Returning to Egypt, how would they explain why they still had the money they were supposed to have used to pay for the corn?

2. Simeon was still locked up in Egypt. How would they get him out?

3. How would they make sure that nothing happened to Benjamin?

These problems have spiritual corollaries as they picture similar problems that we, as Christians, may face in our lives today:

1. Are we still carrying some type of material or spiritual baggage from an excursion we made into the world, and, if so, how are we going to get rid of it?

2. Do we have “brothers” who got locked up in the ways of the world while they were out in it with us, and, if so, how will we get them back?

3. Are we doing what we can to make our “little brothers and sisters” safe from the world?

Here’s how God arranged for Joseph’s brothers to deal with these problems:

First of all they confessed that they had something they weren’t really supposed to have.

And they came near to the steward of Joseph’s house, and they communed with him at the door of the house, And said, O sir, we came indeed down at the first time to buy food: And it came to pass, when we came to the inn, that we opened our sacks, and, behold, every man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight: and we have brought it again in our hand. And other money have we brought down in our hands to buy food: we cannot tell who put our money in our sacks.

Genesis 43:19-22

This took care of two of their problems at once: They were not in trouble over the money, and they got Simeon back.

And he said, Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money. And he brought Simeon out unto them.

Genesis 43:23

The dream which was part of the beginning of all Joseph’s troubles was now fulfilled:

And they answered, Thy servant our father is in good health, he is yet alive. And they bowed down their heads, and made obeisance.

Genesis 43:38

The brothers still had one problem left, but God’s grace took care of that one, because “the Egyptian ruler” took a mysterious liking to Benjamin.

And he took and sent messes unto them from before him: but Benjamin’s mess was five times so much as any of theirs. And they drank, and were merry with him.

Genesis 43:34

It must have also seemed exceedingly strange to the brothers that the Egyptians had them seated according to their birth order. How could they have known that?

The events in Genesis 44 take place about 22 years after the brothers had thrown Joseph into a pit, sold him into slavery, lied to their father, and “got away with it.” Now they thought that their problems had been solved. They were on their way home with Benjamin, Simeon, and the corn: mission accomplished. Joy over hidden sin (and the idea of “getting away with it”) might produce a type of relief, but it is a false relief – a false joy. Joseph’s brothers were shocked when they were overtaken on the way home by Joseph’s steward.

And he searched, and began at the eldest, and left at the youngest: and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack.

Genesis 44:12

The steward searched their sacks according to their birth order, which, again, must have seemed strange. The brothers had made a deal that the one who was found with the silver cup would remain in Egypt and be a servant. The tension would have been heightened as they moved toward Benjamin.

The word “found” can be “found” about seven times in Genesis 44 [Verses 8; 9; 10; 12; 16 (twice); and 17]. There is also the expression “come upon” in Verse 34. The brothers’ sin was being “found out.”

The word “father” is mentioned about 17 times in Genesis 44 [Verses 17; 19; 20 (x 2); 22 (x 3); 24; 25; 27; 30; 31; 32 (x 2); 34 (x 2)]. Sin was being “found out” and the “Father’s” judgment was coming upon it.

And put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack’s mouth of the youngest, and his corn money. And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken.

Genesis 44:2, emphasis added

And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found.

Genesis 44:16, emphasis added

In Scripture the “cup” is often the image of God’s wrath.

Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

John 18:11, emphasis added

You do not want to be caught with the cup of God’s wrath in your sack when Jesus comes back.

And Judah and his brethren came to Joseph’s house; for he was yet there: and they fell before him on the ground.

Genesis 44:14

Notice that Judah appears to have taken the position of leadership. Also, Joseph’s dream has now been fulfilled again. They all bow.

Judah’s speech in Genesis 44:18-34 is very interesting. Judah may have been divinely inspired to appeal to the Egyptian (Joseph), using Judah’s own father (Jacob), without knowing he was talking to a man who also called Jacob “Father.” Notice “thy servant my father” in 44:24; 27; 30. Now came the fulfillment of Joseph’s second dream where Jacob also bowed before Joseph. Through this speech – this impassioned plea – Joseph realized Judah had changed.

Have Mine Own Way

January 6, 2011 at 9:47 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Hosea, Uncategorized | 10 Comments
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When King Solomon died his kingdom became divided. Two of the twelve tribes, led by Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, became the southern kingdom of Judah. The other ten tribes, ruled over by Jeroboam, became the northern kingdom of Israel (also known as Ephraim).

Jeroboam did not want his subjects going to the southern kingdom so they could worship in Jerusalem. Therefore, he found a way to entice them to stay. He placed golden calves for the people to worship, and allowed pagan fertility rites and prostitution to be practiced in the northern places of worship. It seems almost unthinkable that a race of people who had almost been rejected by God because of the worship of a golden calf (see Exodus 32), would back-slide into such evil again.

Hosea the prophet was one of only a very few voices crying out against such wickedness.

For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer: now the LORD will feed them as a lamb in a large place.

Hosea 4:16

He also warned the southern kingdom not to follow their example.

Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.

Hosea 4:17

What a sad day it is when the Lord’s people turn back to that from which they have already been delivered. Many of us have been rescued from the idolatry of this world by loving Christian friends. We must not make the mistake of presuming upon God’s grace, however. There may come a time when the Lord says to your friends, “Let him alone.” One of the harshest disciplines that God may give to His children is to let them have their own way.

Beware of Fabrics, Frolicking, and Friends

October 18, 2010 at 9:36 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Biblical friendship, Genesis | 7 Comments
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Joseph was sold into slavery at about age 17. He reached the throne of Egypt at around 30. The narrative account of Joseph is put on hold for a little while in Genesis Chapter 38.

Garments or raiment or clothes or coats are a big deal in Genesis. Judah was deceived by his daughter-in-law Tamar while he was at Timnath for sheep-shearing. Getting fleece for garments, he was deceived by a garment. Isaac had been deceived by a garment when Jacob dressed up like Esau. Jacob was deceived by a garment at least once (Joseph’s torn coat), and maybe twice (his first wedding night). There is often a discernible symmetry when God applies his principle of reaping and sowing. God Law says that our coverings should be distinct, and He is the only One Who is never truly fooled by outward garments, which He establishes early on in the account of Adam and Eve (fig leaves versus animal skins).

Genesis 38 also gives us the account of the infamous “sin of Onan.”

And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.

Genesis 38:6-7

This brought into play what is called the “levirate” (Latin for brother-in-law) marriage. The sin of Onan is difficult to discuss in mixed company, although the text makes it plain enough. When people who are supposed to be spiritual and faithful to God get involved with the world, the result is often some kind of sexual sin.

And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.

Genesis 38:1

“Turned in to” is a helpful play on words. The Hebrew word for “turned” is natah. It means more than just to change directions; it means “to incline to;” “to bend to the will;” “to pervert.” Judah “turned in to (into) a certain Adullamite.”

“Hirah” meant “a nobleman” of the Canannites.

And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her.

Genesis 38:2

“Shuah” meant “wealth.”

And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er.

Genesis 38:3

“Er” meant “awake.”

And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan.

Genesis 38:4

“Onan” meant “strong.”

And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah [a petition]: and he was at Chezib [false], when she bare him.

Genesis 38:5, bracketed descriptions added

Judah’s family was getting more and more worldly as he looked for wealth and strength and influence and deception.

God killed Er because He did evil in the sight of the Lord. He was “awake” – aware of what he was doing and he did it openly. All evil is done in the sight of the Lord. He sees everything, but some people take special pleasure in wickedly defying Him.

Judah ended up being deceived by his daughter-in-law, Tamar, thinking she was a harlot – a prostitute. He tried to buy his way out of it when she got pregnant, and his sin was ultimately exposed.

Tamar delivered twins, and they struggled in their birth the way Jacob and Esau did. The baby with the scarlet thread came out second.

I just want to make one other point before we move on to Genesis Chapter 39 next time.

And in process of time the daughter of Shuah Judah’s wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnath, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.

Genesis 38:12, emphasis added

And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman’s hand: but he found her not.

Genesis 38:20, emphasis added

And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin; and Amnon thought it hard for him to do any thing to her. But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David’s brother: and Jonadab was a very subtil man. And he said unto him, Why art thou, being the king’s son, lean from day to day? wilt thou not tell me? And Amnon said unto him, I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.

II Samuel 13:2-4, emphasis added

Choose your friends carefully.

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.

Proverbs 13:20


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