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Wednesday, June 26, 2019


Obadiah was one of the Old Testament prophets that God sent to Israel with a message. God gave Obadiah a vision of what would happen in the future. The year was approximately 586 B.C.  The Jewish people recognized Obadiah as one of the prophets sent to them by God.  He was one of their minor prophets because his message from the Lord was short. Just three chapters!
One of the main themes of Obadiah’s vision from God contained a severe message - that the tribe of Edom would be judged and completely destroyed.  The Edomites were neighbors of the Jews and they were distant relatives also. What had this tribe of people done to cause God to decide to wipe them off the face of the earth? 
The ancient Edomites (people from the tribe of Edom) were the children or descendants of Esau.  Esau was the grandson of Abraham and the son of Isaac.  He was also the brother of Jacob.  And, the nation of Israel are the children or descendants of Jacob.  Jewish people trace their lineage back to their patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It seems that down through the centuries, Esau’s children, Edom, hated Israel, Jacob’s children. And they hated them passionately, with a deep dark hatred!
  God had promised Abraham that his children would be blessed, and that God would give them a “promised land” – the land of Israel.  God’s special promise had been passed down from Abraham to Isaac.  And it was to be passed on to Esau, since Esau was Isaac’s oldest son. 
But Esau wasn’t very interested in his father and grandfather’s God.  And also it seems that Esau didn’t much care about God’s special blessing that would someday belong to him.  Esau enjoyed hunting and running around with the heathen Canaanite women living nearby.  Later Esau married three or four of these wild women and they pitched their tents next to his parents’ tent. (Genesis 36:2) Esau and his wives and children must not have been living good lives, because Esau’s mother, Rebecca, told his father, Isaac, that she was tired of living because of Esau’s wives! And that her life would be worthless unless Jacob found a more godly wife or wives. (Genesis 27:46)   
Esau’s brother Jacob was different.  Jacob desperately wanted God’s special blessing and he also wanted to do God’s will and have all that God wanted for him.  One day as Esau was coming back home from one of his hunting trips, he ran into his brother, Jacob, who was cooking a big pot of beans over the campfire.  Esau asked his brother for a bowl of his beans.  And Jacob replied that he would give him some beans if Esau would sell him God’s blessing that he was going to receive.  Esau laughed and said that since he might die (of hunger) what good was God’s blessing!
So, Esau gave God’s blessing away for a bowl of beans!!  (Genesis 25:29) I guess that was all God’s blessing meant to him!  And later, when their father Isaac was ready to give God’s blessing to his oldest son, Esau, Jacob pretended to be Esau, and their father, Isaac, who was blind, gave Esau’s blessing to Jacob, thinking he was Esau. This caused bad feelings between the brothers and Jacob had to run away from home since Esau was threatening to kill him.  (Genesis 27:32,33)
 But, later when the two brothers grew older, Jacob and Esau got back together and made up their differences.  Even though Jacob and Esau remained friendly and helpful to one another during their lifetimes, after their deaths Esau’s family (the tribe of Edom) held onto jealousies and hatreds with Jacob’s descendants, (the nation of Israel).  The Edomites kept a burning hatred for Israel alive down through the many centuries.  (Numbers 24:18-19) Any chance the Edomites could get, they tried to harm their relative.
Scripture tells us that when Moses was leading the Jewish people across the wilderness to their promised land, that the Edomites followed after them and tortured and killed off the sick ones and the stragglers that couldn’t keep up with the others. Deuteronomy 25:17-19) These Bible passages go on to say that the tribe of Edom didn’t fear God!  Evidently, they murdered their Jewish relatives whenever they could and didn’t concern themselves about how God might care.
When the Babylonians were sacking Jerusalem and carrying the Jewish people off into captivity, the tribe of Edom came around and joined the Babylonians against their brother, Israel. Scripture says that Edom pursued his brother (Israel) with the sword and had no pity. The tribe of Edom kept his anger forever!  (Amos 1:11) The tribe of Edom occupied the land south of the Dead Sea and in the mountains and down to the Gulf of Aqaba, what is now Jordan. Historically we don’t know how Edom was destroyed.  But we do know that they were completely destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.   
Obadiah’s vision from God moves on from foreseeing the destruction of Edom to how God judges and deals with all the nations of the earth, good or bad.  Obadiah message speaks of the “Day of the Lord” Obadiah 1:15-16 says: “For the Day of the Lord upon all the nations is near:  As you have done, it shall be done unto you.  For as you drank on My holy mountain, so shall all nations drink continually:  Yes, they shall drink, and swallow, And, they shall be as though they had never been.”  
About Israel (Jacob’s descendants) there was also a prophecy from Obadiah for them too.  “But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness.  The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.  The house of Jacob shall be a fire.  And the house of Joseph a flame:..” (Obadiah 1:17-18a)  God promises restoration, salvation, and rest for those who trust Him.
The “Day of the Lord” in Prophecy, is a term used by the Old Testaments prophets to signify a time in the history of mankind when God directly intervenes to bring salvation to His people and punishment to the rebellious. The “Day of the Lord” is a broad biblical concept.  Prophecies about Edom’s doom, and other biblical prophecies for other nations that existed long ago, were mingled in with those reaching as far as the final culmination of all things, when Christ will come again and God will judge the whole world and restore His righteous order in the Earth!
What can we learn from Obadiah, God’s prophet?  Does God also have a message in this prophecy for us today?  God through Obadiah forcefully addresses the matter of relationships.  How easy it is for those we know best to become the objects of our most bitter resentments.  Scripture tells us that one of the reasons God punished Edom is because they held on to their burning hatred for Israel and never let it go.  God’s people are called to love our enemies. (Matthew 5:44 and Romans 12:14-21) We are on dangerous ground when we hate our brother – or someone else- and refuse to forgive as we have been commanded to do.  
Our job is to forgive and give the resentments we have with others to God to deal with. And we are to pray for those who hate us or come against us. Throughout Scripture God’s people are called to forgive and seek reconciliation in their broken relationships. (Matthew 5:21-26) God is just and His job is to judge and deal with our injustices.  We can see how dangerous it is for us to hold onto hate, when we see what happened to Edom!







Monday, June 17, 2019

Put God First and Trust Him to Provide

Put God First and Trust Him to Provide  
God gives all of His children a test or a challenge. And that challenge is the same for every generation.  God challenges or commands us to put Him first, to give ourselves to Him and then to trust Him to provide our daily necessities. The first commandment of the Ten Commandments calls us to put God first. “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” .  (Exodus 20:3)  
Along with God’s challenge, He gives us a promise.  He promises that if we put Him first, He will bless our lives and that His Presence will be with us and help us. One of the many Bible passages repeating this God-given promise says: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things shall be added unto you.”  (Matthew 6:33) God calls us to believe and reckon as true His promise that when we focus on serving Him, He will be with us and bless us.
In the Bible in the book of Haggai, we read of a time when the Jewish people were struggling with this very challenge – the challenge of putting God first.  The year was 520 B.C. and God had called the Jewish people to re-build His temple, which had been destroyed.  It was important that God’s people have a place to worship Him.  With enthusiasm they had started re-building, but then trouble came!  The Jewish builders let a few things discourage them and they just quit!    
People from nations or tribes nearby who didn’t believe in God had been mocking their efforts as they started working on the temple.  And also, a near-by king was threatening to harm them if they kept on working to build God’s temple. And an enemy nearby threatened to tear down any new temple they would build.  Nothing has changed. So often when God’s people try to build for God they are mocked or put down.
 Some of the older Jewish people who were living before the first temple had been destroyed were upset and disappointed that this new temple wasn’t going to be as big or grand as the first temple had been.  These older folks could remember how magnificent Solomon’s temple had been and they felt that this new smaller temple wouldn’t measure up.
So, from their own people as well as from their enemies outside, the workmen working on God’s temple were criticized, threatened and discouraged with their work for God.
Instead of listening to God’s call, the Jewish people listened to the mockers and the hecklers.  They put their tools down and quit working on God’s temple.  Instead they put their energies into re-building their own houses, doing their own thing.  Sixteen long years passed, and they were still busy doing home improvement projects and buying fancy paneling and putting it into their homes.  Showing off.  And God’s temple was still laying there abandoned and forgotten in the ruins.  They could do it all.  They didn’t seem to need to meet with God?
After a while a drought came over the land and the crops of our little Jewish community weren’t doing so well. The Jewish people wanted to be practical and not start re-building the temple until they had a better year.  Anyway, perhaps they didn’t need to worship together in the temple or bring their sacrifices to God.  Couldn’t they be religious on their own terms without taking time out for God? 
God missed His people and wanted them back.  He sent the prophet Haggai to the Jewish people with a message.  Haggai was God’s messenger and His prophet.  God often sent prophets to the nation of Israel with His messages and the Jewish people had learned that often God spoke to them through prophets that He raised up.  Haggai, the prophet, told the Jewish people that God wanted them to make Him important in their lives again, to put Him first.  God wanted His people to finish their work on the temple so that they could worship Him there. (Haggai 1 and 2)
Haggai told the people that their crops were failing because they were more concerned with building beautiful houses for themselves than in re-building God’s temple. That all their efforts at building their own kingdom could never produce lasting results.  God’s prophet, Haggai talks about clean and unclean things and their influence.  He speaks of how allowing unclean things into the fellowship of God’s people can contaminate the whole group.  Perhaps these unclean things were referring to the lack of faith these people showed – their lack of concern for God and for finishing His temple.
God answered the people’s disappointment that the temple they had started to re- build would be smaller than the former one.  Haggai told the Jewish people that God had revealed that if they would be strong and work hard to finish His temple that in the future that God would shake the nations and “they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory.” (Haggai 2:7) “The glory of this latter temple (the one they had neglected) shall be greater than the former one, says the Lord of Hosts.  And in this place, I will give “Peace” says the Lord of Hosts.”  (Haggai 2:9) In other words, the Jewish builders’ hard work for a little while would be used by God into eternity!  The One whom all the nations have desired (Jesus Christ) will be displayed in splendor in the temple.  – the little temple that they would build!     
The Jewish people listened to God’s message from Haggai and they all repented of their sin of neglecting God’s work for so long.   They all agreed to get back to the work of finishing God’s temple.  (Haggai 1:12-15) And God stirred up the spirit of the builders and the people and they all came together and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God.   God promised the people that He was with them and that from that day on that He would bless them.  (Haggai 2:19) They would have abundance again – not only in their crops but in their spirits.
What can we learn from this little Bible story from so long ago?  First, we can remember that God also wants us to put Him first. That we are not to just selfishly take care of ourselves – build up our own houses or fortunes and ignore God’s.  We do not belong to ourselves; we belong to God.  He (Christ) has paid the price (His blood) for our salvation.  Scripture says: “You are not your own, you are bought with a price.” (1 Corinthians 19b and 20a)   
Also, we can learn that we must not abandon His church, or the habit of coming together on a regular basis to worship Him with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  Scripture says: “Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day (when Jesus comes again) approaching.”  (Hebrews 10:23) We need to find a church that worships God and believes the Bible and get involved. 
We can learn that just as God promised to be with His people long ago in our story, He promises the same for His people today.  The Holy Spirit is an abiding gift to the people of God.  And God also promises to bless us and to make our work prosper. That even though we may be disappointed with how little our work for God seems to be, that God will use what we give Him and multiply it and cause it to shine throughout all eternity!          





Sunday, June 9, 2019

Learning to Hear God's Voice

Learning to Hear God’s Voice
This morning, as I was driving into town, I turned on some praise music and began singing along.  But then very soon a small voice inside my head interrupted my praise time and seemed to be telling me that I should first repent of my sin and then come back and bring my praises to God.  Surprised I stopped singing and immediately thought of how much I hated a couple at my former church. And while I was wondering if that was the sin I should repent of, a voice inside my head assured me that that was it!  I was stunned.  
I drove along silently for a few minutes and then started praying.  I told God that I was sorry, and I would try to stop hating this hateful couple. My words sounded good, but I knew my heart wasn’t there with my words.  And God sees my heart.
  I didn’t think of my hateful spirit as being so wrong since there were so many reasons to be angry with these ones, I argued.  I reminded God that this couple actively tries to put down Jesus and tear apart the Christian faith.  That this couple goes to church and constantly makes fun of Christians and that I was fearful that they were harming the faith of some of our good friends.  That there was a spiritual battle going on here. (Galatians 5:17) Shouldn’t I try to stop them?  Shouldn’t I get involved?   
About this time, a new praise song started playing on my tape deck.  This new song blared out across the car, “The Battle Belongs to the Lord”.  “Listen to those words,” the voice inside my head seemed to be saying to me.  “God, are you trying to tell me something?” I asked.  Was God trying to tell me to leave this battle with Him? 
I arrived downtown and parked the car.  And as I was walking in the store the voice in my head just kept on talking to me.  “Stop fighting this battle,” the voice whispered in my heart as I started shopping. “This is My battle and I can take care of it Myself. I have called you to peace.” Is this the Holy Spirit talking to me, or just my active imagination?  I wondered.  God was calling me to peace! What did that mean?
But then a heavy peace settled in around me and I felt like a burden was being lifted off my soul.  I was not supposed to keep fighting this battle. It felt good to put my burden of hate down and sink into God’s peace.
On the way home the voice inside my head started in again.  “Pray for this couple,” it commanded.  “Bless them and pray that they come to Me.”  I gulped and asked God to help me love and bless this couple that I have so much fun hating. And then slowly I began to feel a bit better about them as I could see them in God’s hands.  I believe God was already helping me forgive this couple and care about them.
 Amazing that with God’s strength we can care about people that we can’t care about on our own!  I believe that He gives us strength to do what He asks us to do. I believe that this voice in my head was most likely God who was speaking to me about my sin of hating this couple. And I will obey His command and my attitude towards them has changed.  And I will also continue praying for them.  I have no choice but to obey what I believe God is commanding me to do.
 Of course, everything that comes into our minds is not from God.  I have had thoughts before that I thought might be from God and later found out that they weren’t. We can ask God to help us hear His voice in our hearts, so we won’t be missing what He wants to tell us.  But we should check what we think God is telling us with Scripture.  God will never tell us to do something that is contrary to His Word.  We can know that a word is not from God if that word is telling us to do or say something that is against God’s Laws.    
The Bible tells us that God wants to communicate with us. God speaks to us through His Word. But He also speaks to us directly. Scripture tells us that His Holy Spirit leads us and speaks to us in our hearts and prompts us in our spirits.  God is not a distant and cold God who cannot be known.  We can ask Him our question and wait for His answer.  He can answer us by putting a strong desire in our hearts. Or speak words into our heart.  Or He can open and close doors in our lives.  Or speak to us through someone else or give us a vision.  
The Bible, God’s Word, is alive, (Hebrews 4:12) and His Word feeds our spirits.  That is why it is so important to study and meditate on Scripture.  God’s laws are a sign of His love for us and our obedience to His laws is a sign of our love for Him.  Jesus said: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. “(John 14:21a)
 We won’t keep God’s Word if we don’t believe that the Bible is God’s Word or if we don’t read the Bible. Unbelief or rejection of God’s laws or disobedience of God’s laws, keeps us from being all that God wants us to be and do all that He has for us to do.  We will miss out.
Scripture says that we must have faith in order to please God. (Hebrews 11:6) And: “Faith comes by hearing, hearing the Word of God…” (Romans 10:17) God’s Word, the Bible is food for our souls. Our precious faith, which is so important to God, grows in our hearts by hearing and feeding on the Word of God. (the Bible) Let’s be on guard and not let anyone or anything take that away from us!
 But there are messages God has just for you that you may not find in the Bible.  There are directions for your life that are just for you.  Should you take a certain job or leave a place and go somewhere else?  We need to learn to trust the Holy Spirit to direct us. God may be wanting to speak to you about a decision you must make in your life. Or a health issue. Or lead you to change or repent or call you to peace! 
Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit will be our guide, if we let Him. (John 16:13, John 14:26. Psalm 32:8) Are we letting Him?  Are we sensitive to His Spirit nudging us along?  There are many things in our daily lives that we are unsure about how to handle.  But God wants to speak to our hearts and tell us which way to go. 
Are we asking for His guidance and waiting for His answers?   Or are we running our lives by ourselves and leaving Him out?  Are we taking God along with us every day and following His lead? Or are we at a place where we cannot hear His promptings to our hearts? If we do not draw near to God, we may not hear what He wants to say to us. Scripture says to draw near to God and He will draw near to us. (James 4:8)  Let’s learn to walk so closely with God that we never miss hearing His voice within us! 
“Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’ Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.”  (Isaiah 30:21)  











Saturday, June 1, 2019

Samson, a Judge of Israel

Samson, a Judge of Israel
We read the story of Samson’s life in Judges 13 – 16, and I personally have had a hard time appreciating this man of God.  Samson is given honorable mention in the famous “faith” chapter (Hebrews 11) of the Bible. He is mentioned along with many other Godly men and women down through the ages who have all had great faith in God.  (Hebrews 11:32) Samson was a one of Israel’s judges between the years of 1085 BC and 1065 BC.
 During the time period after Israel entered the Promised Land. (1406 BC) and before Israel got her first king (1050 BC.) was a time when God raised up “judges” to help Israel take over the land, He had promised them and help protect Israel from the Canaanites in the land. These judges served as spiritual, military, and governmental leaders for the people.
 God would pour out His Spirit upon a judge who then would fight an enemy who was killing the Jewish people.  Or sometimes the judges would lead a battle and drive out or kill the inhabitants of an area that the Jewish people would take over. Othniel was the first judge (1353-1313 BC.) and Samson was the last judge during this period.  (1085-1065) Deborah and Gideon were among several of the other judges.
God raised Samson up as a Judge to help the Jewish people defeat the Philistines.  Scripture describes the Philistines as a nation who “devoured Israel with an open mouth.”  (Isaiah 9:11,12) The Philistines are said to have “taken captive whole Jewish communities and sold them to Edom” (Amos 1:6-8)  In another Scripture we are told that the “Philistines took vengeance and revenge with malice and with ancient hostility and tried to destroy Judah.”  (Ezekiel 25:15-17.  The Jewish people were outnumbered by these cruel warring people. Eventually God judged the Philistines and they no longer exist as a people. (Zechariah 9:5-7)
Some liberal Christians today do not believe the Bible where it records the history of Israel being led by God to drive out and kill the Philistines, Canaanites and other godless tribes. Our loving, just and fair God, who knows all things, judged these ancient tribes and only He, their Creator, was and is in the position to be their Judge. These ancient tribes were in such a desperately fallen condition that evidently there was only one remedy: destroy them.  Cut out the cancer so it wouldn’t spread. Many of them sacrificed their children to Baal, burning them on the altar.  
The Bible begins telling the story of Samson In Judges 13 where an angel appears to Manoah’s wife and tells her that she will conceive and have a son who will be a Nazirite, or one who is set apart to God from birth.  That his mission would be to begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the evil Philistines. (Judges 13:5) A Nazarite was to show that he was set apart to God by never cutting his hair or drinking wine or other fermented drinks or eating anything that was un-clean.  Samson would be given special Holy Spirit power to begin to deliver Israel from their neighbors, the Philistines. Samson was born as the angel had promised, and the Lord blessed him as he grew, and the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him (Judges 13:24-25a)
When Samson was a young man, he saw a Philistine woman that he thought was attractive, and he asked his parents to get her for him as a wife.  It was the custom then for the parents of the groom to talk to the bride’s father and arrange the marriage.  Samson’s parents were upset and argued with Samson that he had been set apart for God and he should marry a woman from Israel and not a heathen Philistine woman.  But Samson insisted and the marriage took place.
During the marriage ceremony Samson told a riddle to the Philistine guests and promised the guests that if they could guess his riddle then he would give them thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes. When the Philistine guests couldn’t figure out Samson’s riddle, they harassed Samson’s new wife insisting that she get the answer to the riddle out of her husband.  Day after day, Samson’s wife cried and begged Samson to tell her the answer to the riddle.  Finally, in desperation, Samson told the answer to the riddle to his wife.  But then she quickly ran out and told the answer to the Philistine men who came back to Samson and demanded the thirty sets of clothes he had promised if they could guess his riddle! 
Samson was furious at the Philistines and at his wife for going behind his back and telling the Philistines the riddle’s answer.  He rushed out and: “struck down thirty of the Philistine men, stripped them of their belongings and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle to him demanding the clothing.  Burning with anger he left his wife and stormed off to his father’s house.”  (Judges 14: 19)
Since Samson was angry and didn’t go home that night, the wife thought that he was divorcing her.  Her father immediately gave her to another man to be his wife.  A few days later when Samson cooled off and came back to the house where he and his wife were living, he found the wife was living with another man as his new wife.
Samson was so angry that he caught three hundred foxes and tied them together in pairs tail to tail.  Then he put a lighted torch on each pair of foxes’ tails and let them loose in the standing grain of the Philistine’s many wheat fields.  All of the Philistine’s wheat that was soon to be harvested for the year was burned up along with their vineyards and olive groves. 
The Philistines were so angry with Samson that their men set out to catch him.  But Samson was too strong for that to happen.  One time the Philistines thought they had Samson captured inside the city gates.  But Samson, with Holy Spirit strength, took hold of the doors of the city gate, and tore it loose and carried it to the top of a hill. 
Some time later Samson, always the lady’s man, fell in love with another beautiful Philistine woman named Delilah.  The rulers of the Philistines went to Delilah and asked her to lure Samson into showing her the secret of his great strength.  They wanted to know how to overpower him and bring him down.  They promised Delilah a fortune in silver shekels if she would help them.  Delilah agreed to betray Samson, her new lover.  She would soon be a wealthy woman! 
Day after day Delilah begged and coaxed and teased Samson trying to make him tell her the secret of his great strength.  Finally, tired of all the fussing, Samson gave in and told her his secret.  His strength came from his God and his long hair was a symbol that he belonged to God.  Cutting his hair would break his vow of loyalty to God.  Samson fell asleep and Delilah quickly cut his long hair and called in the Philistines to capture him.
  Samson woke up and started fighting off the Philistines, counting on his usual strength from God.  But God’s strength was gone from Samson.  The Philistines tied him up and put Samson’s eyes out and took him to their city, Gaza, where they bound him with bronze shackles and set him to grinding in the prison.  Round and round poor Samson staggered, blind and pushing the heavy grindstone.  Round and round, grinding corn for his enemies.  But the hair on Samson’s head was beginning to grow.
One day the rulers of the Philistines assembled in a huge pillared building in Gaza to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon, their god, and to celebrate capturing Samson.  Thousands of Philistines came for the festivities.  While they were all in high spirits, they called for the guards to bring Samson out of prison so he could entertain them all.  As Samson stood there among the pillars of the building in front of the jeering crowds, he asked the servant leading him around to lead him over to the pillars so he could lean against them.
Scripture says that all the rulers and 3,000 Philistines were watching and laughing at Samson that day. Bracing himself against the pillar, his right hand on the one pillar and his left hand on the other, Samson prayed to the Lord, “O Sovereign Lord, remember me, Oh God, please strengthen me just once more and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.”  Samson pushed with all his might and down came the temple on top of the rulers and on all the people there, killing everyone and killing Samson too.  He killed more Philistines that day when he died than while he lived.  (Judges 16:28-30)
Samson had been given great gifts from God.  But he failed to use God’s gifts to His greatest glory.  Samson’s judgeship consisted of single-handed victories over the Philistines, which disrupted their domination over Israel.  But Samson did not liberate Israel from the Philistine oppression.  Samson’s physical strength enabled him to do exploits, but his moral weakness led to his eventual destruction.