Archive for June 2008

“… show your love … again …”

June 30, 2008

The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”

2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. 3 Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you.”

4 For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or idol. 5 Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days.
(Hosea 3:1-5; NIV. Please read Hosea 1-7.)

It has been said … that Hosea is a love story. But it is not an easy read – for it is not a sweet romantic “love at first sight” – “happily ever after” love story. If it is a love story – it is also a tragedy … an epic drama of love, betrayal, and devotion. It reveals all of the joy – grief … hope – heartache … pleasure – pain … from soul level.

But it was (is) not a love story … it was (is) real life.  

Hosea loved Gomer. God loved Israel.

Hosea was betrayed by Gomer. God was betrayed by Israel.

Hosea brought Gomer back home. God brought Israel back home.

ON SECOND THOUGHT: Reading about Hosea’s heartache … sobers me – humbles me – and even shames me. My sin caused this kind of pain. I hate that … apologize for that. But I find comfort in the ultimate moral of this “story”. Even when we have rejected His love – ignored His faithfulness … the Lord still loves us … and keeps His covenant with us.  

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“O Lord, listen!”

June 29, 2008

“Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”
(Daniel 9:17-19; NIV. Please read Daniel 7-12.)

His prayer is honest. He knows that the Sovereign Lord was righteous to bring the disaster on His holy city and people. Therefore, when he prays – he begs for God’s mercy.

His plea is not based on his own righteousness but on the great mercy of God.

He realizes that his nation deserved the punishment – but he knows that his people will not recover unless the Lord will “listen” … “forgive” … “hear and act“!

The city and the nation “bear His name” … undeserved and unworthy … so for His name’s sake, He will answer.  

ON SECOND THOUGHT: Please pray this same prayer for me. I realize that I deserve all of the consequences that come due to my sin (and so much more); but I beg for His help – not because of my righteousness but His great mercy. I bear His name … undeserved and unworthy … so please ask Him – for His name’s sake to listen – forgive – hear and act.

 

“But Daniel resolved …”

June 28, 2008

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility- 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.   5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

6 Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”

11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service.
(Daniel 1:3-19; NIV.  Please read Daniel 1-6.)

Young men – special young men – find themselves in a foreign land with a foreign language – a foreign culture – a foreign god. Of course, they are homesick – heartsick. Their nation has been overrun by pagans – their families have been carried into captivity. They have no reason to hope that things will ever be different – ever get better … except for a prophet that was among them, who promised that God would bring them home in 70 years.  

So … when they are ordered to prepare themselves for the king’s purpose – they refuse to “defile” themselves. In spite of the obvious pressures that must have been on them to submit … to compromise their convictions … to assimilate into their new culture … they hold to their convictions.

Therefore, God rewards their faithfulness. After their time of testing – they are “healthier and better nourished” than all the other captives. God also blesses these young men with special knowledge and understanding – and unique abilities. 

As surely as the pagan king intends to use them for his purpose, the Almighty God will certainly use them for His glory and purpose. That certainty will be confirmed in visions and dreams … a fiery furnace and a lions’ den.

ON SECOND THOUGHT: If we are but strangers – sojourners in this land (and according to 1Peter, that is just what we are), should we not approach the days of our own “captivity” here – as the Hebrew boys did? Should we not hold to our convictions – even though we will have to learn the “foreign” languages and cultures of this place? Should we not live in hope for the day when we will be returned “home”?

 

“THE LORD IS THERE.”

June 27, 2008

And the name of the city from that time on will be: “THE LORD IS THERE.”
(Ezekiel 48:35; NIV. Please read Ezekiel 44-48.)

Since the Lord is there … it is a city of light, for He is the Light of the World.

Since the Lord is there … it is a city of plenty, for He is the Bread of Life (and there is always extra).

Since the Lord is there … it is a city of safety, for He is the Good Shepherd.

Since the Lord is there … it is a city of life, for He is the Prince of Life.

Since the Lord is there … it is a city of hope, for He is the Resurrection and the Life.

ON SECOND THOUGHT: That is where I want to live!

 

“This is the Most Holy Place.”

June 26, 2008

“This is the Most Holy Place.”
(Ezekiel 41:4; NIV. Please read Ezekiel 38-43.)

A measurement will be taken … a distinction will be made … between the holy and the common … to identify what the Sovereign Lord counts as “holy”.

Such a measurement was given to Moses in the blueprints of the tabernacle. Of one certain space it was said, “This is the Most Holy Place”.

Such a measurement was given to Solomon in the blueprints of the temple. Of one certain place it was said, “This is the Most Holy Place”.

Such a measurement was given to Jesus in the blueprints of the church. Of one certain (purchased by blood) group it is said, “This is the Most Holy Place”.

To those of us … who by the grace of God have been purchased out of every tribe, tongue, people and nation by the blood of the Lamb … who have been measured and so designated … it has been said, “This is the Most Holy Place”. 

ON SECOND THOUGHT: I think I have some understanding as to how all of us would react if we were in the presence of the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle or temple. Would we not show a reverence – a fearful respect – an awe-inspired appreciation for the presence of God in that place? How can we treat the church – the sanctuary of the Lord God – the Most Holy Place with anything less?  

“I will shepherd the flock …”

June 25, 2008

The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. 6 My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.

7 “‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 8 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, 9 therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 10 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.

11 “‘For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. 14 I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
(Ezekiel 34:1-16; NIV. Please read Ezekiel 33-37.)

I post these words from God to every pastor, preacher, counselor, teacher and deacon – who serve among the flock of God’s people … for we all would be included in Ezekiel’s definition of shepherds.

The word of God is spoken “against” the shepherds for two reasons: they take care of themselves at the sheep’s expense and they do not take care of the sheep. Woe to those shepherds who exalt their own wants, needs or interests above those of their brothers and sisters.

Because these shepherds were themselves predators – there is no one to watch over or protect the flock. Therefore, they scattered and became “food for the wild animals”. No one to search for them … no one to bring them safely home.

But the Good Shepherd will …

He will “search” for them and “bring back the strays” … 

He will “rescue” them from the psuedo-shepherds and from the wild animals …

He will “tend” to them, making them lie down in green pastures …

He will “bind up the injured” and “strengthen the weak” … 

He will “shepherd the flock”

ON SECOND THOUGHT: It is obvious to those who know me – who know my past – that I would have been counted among those unfaithful shepherds. God forgive me … and may the rest of my life be spent in “searching” for the scattered and lost … “bringing back the strays” … “tending to” and “binding up” the weak and weary … “shepherding” His flock as He would.    

 

 

“Then they will know …” etc.

June 24, 2008

Then they will know that I am the LORD.
(Ezekiel 30:26; NIV. Please read Ezekiel 29-32.)

The Lord has had His say, regarding Israel. His people will face the consequences of their rebellious ways. And in the end His purpose will be fulfilled – “they will know that I am the Lord“.

The same is also true for Egypt (the audience of these prophecies). They will face the consequences of their efforts to seduce Israel. And in the end His purpose will be fulfilled – Egypt will never again be a world power, and “they will know that I am the Lord”.

ON SECOND THOUGHT: Is this not the purpose of God even now? Is this not the ultimate purpose of every sunrise or sunset … every hailstorm or hurricane … every cool breeze or Diablo wind … every rainbow or flash flood … every earthquake or tsunami … to cause all men and nations to “know that I am the Lord“?