Category Archives: 16 Prophets in 2016

Get to Work-Altar First

Haggai, the prophet was a contemporary of Daniel. While Daniel was in Babylon, Haggai was among the Jews left behind. Under King Cyrus, the exiles began to return to Jerusalem. He even ordered timbers  and all manner of building materials shipped to Jerusalem for the restoration of the Temple. In Ezra, we find that Zerubbabel was leading the way. However, when the temple construction got under way, there was a great resistance from the people who had lived there the last 70 years. The opposition caused the builders to lose heart and stop the building. But they only stopped building the Temple, they in-turn used the cedar timbers that were sent to build, cedar lined houses for themselves. It wasn’t until Ezra returns to Jerusalem and finds the people “living comfortable lives” while the Temple still lay in ruins, and his prompting of them cause the Temple to get built. [Ezra 2 and 3]

Now Haggai, wrote in-between Zerubbabel’s and Ezra’s visits to Jerusalem. He challenges the returning exiles about why they have stopped working and why they are living lives of “luxury” when the devastation and destruction are so prominent?

A couple of things at this point; first when the exiles returned, they were to build the Temple – the Temple is first order of business. The reason seems clear – when there has been major devastation and destruction in our lives, from sin or some other tragedy, the first thing that must be restored in our lives in the PLACE of WORSHIP. We must come back to worshiping our Lord and Savior. The heart of worship is the altar. Don’t worry about the walls, the houses you will live in – get God back at the center of you lives. The exiles attempted to do this, but the enemy [Satan] demoralized them with opposition, and the sat down and quit. It is a difficult thing to rebuild the altar in your life. The enemy does not want you to restore your place of worship. The devil doesn’t mind you building for yourself, but do not rebuild the place of God in your life. When Haggai gets to Jerusalem he finds the exiles “living among the ruins” – key point here again, Satan doesn’t mind you building for yourself, he will even convince you that you are better off taking care of you than trying to fight against the opposition for the place of the Lord.

I am sure that when the exiles returned and saw how great the damage was, they sat down and cried. We see this all the time today with hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes. People are devastated by the destruction – but they vow to rebuild against all opposition.

Haggai addresses the people; they have planted and tried to till the ground but no harvest. Haggai tells the people the problem – you are disobedient to God. The Lord had persuaded gentile kings to provide the building materials and the people of God lost heart to build! We find that Zerubbabel is encouraged, as are the people. In fact that is what is stated 2:4-5, take courage, do not fear – My spirit is abiding with you. Three times the phrase “take courage” is stated. The same message given to Joshua before entering the Promised Land.  The task of rebuilding is always difficult – and surely the Temple would not look like the Solomon Temple in all its grandeur, but it would be the Temple where God’s glory would return. The built in 3 months the Temple, and I am sure there were many who were disappointed in what it looked like.

When life throws us into a pit of despair, get the Altar rebuilt! Get your worship back remember the God of the universe loves you. Once the worship is restored, then other places can be built. The building of the Temple was medicine – the people I am sure as they dug through the rubble wept greatly; as the saw what use to be. Looking at all the memories and brokenness, yet God was able to build again. We have to grieve over loss, but not get stuck in our grieving. The work of rebuilding our lives, with the altar of worship intact is medicine to the believer. Do not let the enemy cause you to lose heart!

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Same Song, different verse

Micah the prophet is our reading for this week. Nothing is new with what Micah has to say to God’s people. Micah ministers during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah; for about the span of 35 years. He writes during the time of Isaiah. All his prophecy is before the fall of Samaria in 722 BC. It is interesting to listen to the warnings over and over again – yet the people of God will not hear the message of calamity and destruction coming for them. The result of their wayward rebellion is destruction and turmoil – a right punishment for their actions against God. It is also interesting that we rarely have to talk about disobedience to the bottom seven of the 10 commandments, for our sins are contained within the first three and our idolatry. Micah brings prophetic judgment against both Northern and Southern kingdoms. While the Northern Kingdom was radical engulfed in Baal worship, Judah is no better, in that they follow suit while still “performing the rituals” at the Temple of Solomon.

I won’t repeat the continued message of how God was going to punish His people, but there are some very pointed verses that bear our attention. In chapter three, we find a very graphic description of just how bad times will be; the people will become cannibalistic and eat their own children’s flesh. [3:1-4]

Sin has always promised more than it could give, kept people longer than they wished and cost more than people could pay. Yet here today we are living in such a time as they. Oh, we may have different descriptions for our sins, but sins they are!

While there will be captivity and exile for God’s people, there is Hope. What a wonderful message from God! Even though mankind will rebel and even hate God, He lovingly initiates the way of return to Him. Jesus the Messiah, He is the Advocate and “Kinsman Redeemer” for us – our Go’El. In Chapter 4:3; a great message of future restoration. The “Last Days” is clearly the time frame for the war instruments to be redesigned. We are not there yet – I see this as the time of the Millennial Reign of Christ. Jesus will have judged the nations, and begun to reign. Only then will weapons become obsolete. The message of Grace and future is caught up in the prophetic prediction of the “Messiah’s birth” in Bethlehem. Micah 5:2 promises the coming Messiah – the religious leaders knew where to find the Messiah, even though they were a mere 6 miles from Jesus, they might as well have been a thousand – they didn’t look for Him at all.

We are not without knowledge, God has told us His plan. He accomplished all that the prophets had said. We have the plan of God recorded for us in Revelation and places such as the Olivet Discourse – we are not ignorant – just stiff-necked. What does God want from people, His people? Very clearly it isn’t the sacrifices of animals – God wants us! In Micah 6:8; it is clearly delineated what God wants – a pure heart, a submissive soul – God wants us to BE what we were always intended to BE before sin. “You are to BE holy, as I AM is holy. Years went by before God did what He predicted – remember, God is not slack concerning His Promise – 2 Peter 3:9. We dare not think that God’s delay is His neglect of performing His plans – its called Mercy and Grace!

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Blow the Trumpet!

This blog will focus on the book of Joel. The book is a clarion call to the nation of Judah, but also to the believers today, especially in America. From the onset of the book we find that Joel speaks of the devastating condition of Judah. “Has anything like this happened in your days, or in your fathers days?” Already there has been captives taken to Babylon, the city is falling apart, the enemy is camped outside the walls. Jerusalem has not fallen yet, but it is only a matter of time. I know that many have ready Joel and relate a future prophetic message only,but scripture cannot mean something today that it did not mean then. The church is in trouble today, just as Judah was on the brink of total disaster. The wonderful Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey is now a waste land. The vines are broken down, the fields lay barren and wind worn. No crops to feed the people, no hope for a better day tomorrow. Yet with all the devastation clearly in eyesight, the people are sleeping or worse drunken with a stupider and oblivious to what is going on around them. This continuation of the message from Jeremiah, still falls on deaf ears.

When we think of the Baal cultic worship, this agrarian god that promise fertility of crops and vats of wine flowing from the wine presses, and all Judah has to show for their idolatry is a waste land. For a people so dependent on the Land, the absurdity that they will not turn back to Jehovah, who gave them the Land  is ironic.

A repeated phrase “for the Day of the Lord is coming” declares that such a time is conducted at the hands of God. When I think of the apathy, apostasy and anarchy that pervades our country and world today I grieve for the Lord to heal us. But I also know that there must be a brokenness within us. We have to come to our senses, as the Prodigal son did before he returned to his loving father. What will it take for the people of Judah, even America to come to their senses? Is it too late for Judah in Joel? Is it too late for America today? The trumpet call that needs to be sounded in the assembly alarm, the calling together of the people. Like in the days as a child we had civil disaster sirens that caused us to assemble in a designated place, we must assemble at the clarion call of the Holy Spirit. We and Judah had to respond to the alarm, sadly Judah did not – will we go the same way in our stubbornness? In Joel 1:14-15 and Joel 2:15-17 declares the necessary actions for the people to avert disaster. But it cannot be just to avert punishment and calamity, there must be a humility and passion to return to the God who loves us, and to our blessed Savior.

Needed today is for the “trumpet to blow” for the people of God to come together for an out pouring of prayer and repentance – needed today is a “Holy Ghost revival!” Nothing short of a solemn assembly will do. A solemn assemble is a called meeting for a specific purpose. I recently called for a “solemn assembly for my church. It is time to drop what is in our hands and fall before the LORD. Call the elders, all the inhabitants to the House of the Lord your God and “Cry out to the LORD” – alas the day for the day of the Lord is near. God is drawing all things according to His plan. Judah is told to come and PRAY in the HOUSE of the LORD – come to the TEMPLE people!

Every great revival began with a small group of people who were broken for the Lord and over their sin – the Shantung revival in China occurred because the missionaries were broken before the Lord in prayer. Prayer is incense in the nostrils of God – let’s make is a sweet-smelling aroma.

With the call to come to the House of God, proclaim a fast and prayer; the end result “who knows whether He [God] will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him.” (2:14) Judah had the chance, but they refused – let us learn from their hard heart refusal and Call on the Lord.

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Crying Out Loud

Book of Lamentations – the five funeral dirges.  The year is close to 587 BC, the first round of captives have been taken to Babylon from Judah. All that God had said in Jeremiah, was come true in Lamentations. The book is authored by Jeremiah – the Weeping Prophet. No matter how much Jeremiah warned the Southern kingdom of Judah, the would not listen to the pending judgment of Yahweh. While there is admitted guilt about the rebellion and immorality entrenched within Judah; there is still the request for mercy or as is sometimes translated lovingkindness. Chapter 3:21-25 is a clear example of HOPE for the mercy of God. I found it interesting that while punishment was being implemented, Judah was not crying out in repentance, but in anguish for being punished. I can remember as a child that I could start crying and wiggling around even before the spanking started – crying out I wouldn’t do it again, but never admitting that I deserved what punishment I was getting. In Crisis of our lives, we too often focus on the repercussions more that the offense. In Lamentations, Jeremiah is weeping or crying out loud about the truth of God’s judgment upon the “daughter of Zion.” I had to look up “daughter of Zion” to have a more full understanding of the phrase. It has to do with the relationship of Judah [IE. Israel] to the Father. SO a relationship is being expressed in “daughter of Zion.” Since we know that God “birthed” Israel from an old and man and woman beyond child-bearing years, the Heavenly Father can call Israel not only His people, but treat her as His child.

The very language of the book is descriptive of the prophetic message given Jeremiah before the captivity and exile. I do not know why we wait so long before we pay attention to the trouble that will be ours when we sin. Of course Israel, Samaria were deserving of the m=punishment they received, but Judah, it seems to appear was appalled that they were being punished.

Clearly represented in the “anger and wrath” of the LORD on Judah. Jerusalem and the Temple are destroyed and ransacked by the enemies. Things were so bad inside the walls of the city, women boiled their children and ate them to stay alive. Famine, sword and pestilence just as they had been warned would occur, did – yet they still are complaining about their situation rather than acknowledge there is justification for their plight.

In each of the funeral messages, we find the depth of the punishment and wrath of God. The people of Judah were compared to the sins of Sodom, but considered worse, this being because they knew better.  While reading of the lament and sorrow of Jeremiah, I couldn’t help but think of 2 Chronicles 6 & 7, where Solomon prays to the LORD about the sin of rebellion Israel would potentially get entrenched in. Solomon asks the LORD to remember and forgive the people. The LORD answers Solomon’s prayer with an emphatic YES in 2 Chronicles 7:14. The exile and destruction of Judah is only comparable to the destruction of Jerusalem again in  70 AD. The land had become so polluted with the excesses of sin and immorality, God was compelled to “cleanse the land.” the Message to us [Americans] we cannot think we are above Israel and exempt from punishment. Arrogance and pride caused the fall of Judah and Israel; it will be the downfall of America as well. In our day we are hearing warning after warning to repent and return to the LORD. Will we heed the warnings or will we relive Lamentations “Crying out Loud” in sorrow for our unrepentant hearts over the judgment of God upon us?

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When it’s all said and done

Jeremiah 48-52; we conclude our reading of Jeremiah this week. It is obvious why he is called the “lamenting or weeping prophet.” Next week we will continue with Jeremiah’s writing with the book of Lamentations. .The last chapters of Jeremiah explain the demise of the foreign countries that mistreated Israel during the “disciplining of God’s people.” While we have learned that God uses “non-believing” rulers as instruments of His wrath and punishment, He still will hold them accountable for HOW they implement His punishment. Starting in chapter 46 – 51, we find each nation is judged by Jehovah. When I first started reading the judgments, I thought of Jesus’ message to the 7 churches in Revelation. However, that illustration breaks down rather quickly. While the nations are not the people of God Israel, they are not too far removed ancestrally. Egypt is implicated in chapter 46, as bible students we know enough about Egypt and the on and off wars with the Jews. They get punished for harboring Jews who have deserted Judah, also taking advantage of the plight of Judah’s discipline. Most of the judgement comes at the hands of Babylon and King Nebuchadnezzar. The image that portrays Babylon as the greatest kingdom, with the Persians-Medes, Greeks and Romans in descending order, is reflected here with Jehovah “giving” the nations to Babylonian power.

Next is Philistia, or the “giants of the coast.”  In chapter 47:5, we find a hint of Elijah and Mt. Carmel, with the “gash yourselves.” Then we move to Chapter 48, and Moab, just a way of understanding better, who is Moab? Moab is one of the children that resulted from the  incest  relationship between Lot and his daughters.  Moab, not from the chosen line of Abraham, find themselves worshiping the Canaanite gods – Chemosh [i.e. Molech and child burnt sacrifices]. Remember that when Israel tried to pass through the Moab land, they were forbidden, God pronounced a judgment on them then.  Now Moab is located in the East and South, or as we would know today as Jordan. Ruth was a Moabitess which God used to bring forth the lineage of David through Boaz.  Right behind the judgment of Moab is his brother Amon – the other part of the Lot and daughters actions. Essentially the same can be said about Amon that has been said about Moab. Even though God is going to give over these kingdoms to Babylon, He finishes His pronouncement by telling them that He will “restore their fortunes.” I have been amazed at the grace and mercy of God in Jeremiah, for while God will punish the nations and His people for their sins, He will restore them back to a right relationship with Himself. This is true about the believer, we do fall into sin patterns, but Our God will restore us to fellowship if we will repent and turn from our wicked ways.

Moving on to Chapter 490, we encounter Edom or Esau; this is a lot closer to Israel that the other nations. However, Edom is not chosen of God – Jacob was. The mistreatment by Edom while Israel was in the wilderness is repaid here. Edom will be a horror to all who witness their destruction. No promise of restoration is given to them. By the way – Edom becomes 1st century Idumea the heritage of King Herod. Think through that for a moment. Later in the chapter we read of two kingdoms, obscure at first but highly significant – Kedar and Hazor. The significance is they are the root ancestry of Mohammad, Islam and Muslims. Known as the “men of the east.” These two places will be haunted, desolate and uninhabited.  God continues His punishment of the nations with Elam, which is the capital of Susa, better known as Iran. [of course we have the story of Esther and how God used her to save the Jews] Finally at the end of the book, while all along God has been telling Jeremiah that Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar are the instruments of God for disciplining Judah, we find that God will also take away the kingdom and posture of Babylon. Why? Because of the “over the top” actions towards Judah. The lesson here is God may use who ever He wants, but there is still accountability for how we implement His plans.

In chapter 52, the fall of Judah is complete, the exiles are taken, the Temple is destroyed. A remnant remains – out of all the Jews only 4600 are captive and will be the nucleus that God uses to rebuild and restore the nation.  So begins with the close of Jeremiah 70 years of exile. Why? The people would not listen!! He that has ears let him hear what the angels says to the churches.

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Hearing, You hear not; Seeing, you see not

Our reading for this week is Jeremiah 43-47, the overwhelming thought kept coming back to me; even though Jeremiah kept telling them what was going to happen, the reason it was happening, they still refused to listen and return to the LORD. Matthew 13:13 is the title this week. Jesus spoke in parables for the same reason – the people hearing, couldn’t hear or see because of their blindedness and deaf ears to the Word of God.

I am a hearing aid wearer, I know what it means to be unable to hear. There are often times when I hear people say things that they didn’t say, or at least not what I thought they said. This means that I can get the wrong message because of my disability. Having a hearing disability is different that “not wanting to hear the message.”

With Jerusalem and Judah destroyed already by Nebuchadnezzar, and many taken into exile in Babylon; one would think the Jews would get the message. However, rather than listen to Jeremiah, they listened to their own words. Even though Jeremiah preached to them the “why” of their situation, they refused to repent and return to the LORD. The city lie in ruins, but rather return to God, they determine to go to Egypt of all places. God had delivered them from the slavery in Egypt – but here they are willingly going to return. This is significant, for in ministry I have found that believers will often return to the captivity that the Father had delivered them from. It doesn’t make sense that after given freedom, that men would seek to be incarcerated again. Going to Egypt is not the answer! Judah had developed alliances with Egypt, felt that they would be better offs there then in the ruins of Judah. But even though they saw the ruins, it never dawns on them that their sin of Baalism is the reason. So now that they have ruined the “Promised Land” they move on. Sin is like that – it is never content with destroying a single place or person, it wasn’t to engulf the entire world and families. It is clear that the women who serve the “queen of heaven” did so at the permission of their husbands. The entire family was involved in this cult worship. While reading this passage, I couldn’t help but think of today when people worship “Mother Earth” instead of the Father. Even though Judah had been scattered, and Jerusalem is an empty wasteland, the Jews come together to go down to Egypt. God is omnipresent – He knows where you and I go. He promises through Jeremiah, that the same result will occur in Egypt, that it did in Judah. Until the sin of rebellion and idolatry are properly reconciled with God, devastation, famine and sword will be used. Rather than repent, the people “bow up” and tell Jeremiah we will listen to our words.

The short chapter 45 is rich with truth. Baruch lamented because it seemed that God was adding greatly to the sorrow of the day. But the father reminds him that it is the sorrow of God over His people who refuse Him. God had enough. Even in Egypt, there would be few left. Those that “escaped” from Judah would meet their death there, very few would return. In Jeremiah 52:30, it list only 4600 people taken into captivity. From that remnant God would build Israel again.

In our current world situation, and most directly America, I struggle with trying to communicate to the “church” the great need for the people of God to repent and rejoice. When I think of the great devastation done to Israel and Judah for refusal to listen to God, I cannot but think that “our land” is being purged and judged because the “church” has lost is first love. We hear about all the problems in our own country, the world countries,; yet we will not be humbled. America is entrenched into a political abyss with the election looming. I watch “Christians” line up on either side of the political aisles. Rather than fall on our faces before God, we still are listening to our own words.  I am familiar with the statistics of church decline and death – 800-1000 will close their doors this year just in SBC churches. Are we guilty of “hearing but not hearing, seeing but not seeing?” I think the hand writing is on the wall!! Daniel 5:25-28

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Famine for Bread [Word of God]

Our reading this week comes from Jeremiah 38-42. But I want to use a verse from chapter 37 and 38 as our thought for the week. Jeremiah 37:21 and 38:9; “until all the bread in the city was gone.” and “for there was no more bread in the city.” When we think of the promise of God that there would be war, fire, pestilence and famine in Jerusalem, these verse become prophetic. In Amos 8:11 we read “Behold the days are coming declares the Lord God, when I will send famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, rather for hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, But they will  not find it.” I believe that we are living in a day and time when people are actually thirsting for the Truth and the “real” Word of God.”  All preaching isn’t preaching, and all sermons aren’t a result of the Holy Spirit action on the messenger. Even though God had been sending prophet after prophet to tell Israel, Samaria and Judah of the impending judgment, they did not listen.  Just as Zedekiah asked Jeremiah to inquire of the Lord for a word – when they already HAD THE WORD OF THE LORD. The message wasn’t what the King wanted to hear. We just heard from President Obama at the DNC about the hope for America, which I believe is a far cry from the truth about the future. Zedekiah listened to the false prophets of his day, yet rejected the Word of the Lord from Jeremiah until it was too late. Only when the city was being besieged did he ask Jeremiah for a Word.  There are many today in America and the est of the world that are very good at wordsmithing a message that the people will embrace. But as we have read countless times “hearing they hear not, and seeing they see not.” For when God gave accurate warning of the judgment, Judah rejected the message.  There are the preachers that preach a health and wealth message, along with those that give a “feel good” gospel. I cannot read that into the Bible. I see how that Jesus warned His disciples and us, that if we live for Him, all men will hate us. The church in America is in trouble, for we are creating too many “generational Churches.”  Churches that play to a particular age or cultural sector. When Jeremiah gave Zedekiah the message of surrender to Nebuchadnezzar and live, or resist and die, he chose to resist. why do people ask for the Word of the Lord, then reject the message? Of course there was the hypocrisy of Zedekiah – oh don’t tell anybody that I’ve been talking to you! I heard the Pope say this week that the World is at War – with itself. In all the mass killings from ISIS and disillusioned humanity, I have to agree. This is a very difficult time in human history. I want to hear of HOPE, I want to hear that all will be fine. But my spirit tells me otherwise. The is Hope for the future at Obama said, but it is found in the sovereign Rule of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior upon the throne of David.

Back to the Famine – there was some 400 years of silence between the close of the Old Testament and the appearance of John the Baptist – 400 years with no Word from God!  I can’t imagine a city without bread, yet we have thousands of cities today around the world without the Bread of God. Scripture speaks of preaching the word in season and out of season, when favorable and unfavorable. We are in a season of disfavor – Preach the Gospel anyway.  Something about our reading this week, while Zedekiah had been captured, the city in ruins and famine for food; God wasn’t done yet. [Jeremiah 42:18]

As bad as things are in our generation – there is Hope, in Jesus’ blood and righteousness. But if we continue to resist against the Hand of God; more is surely to follow of His righteous judgment against sin and idolatry. Are you hungry, are you thirsty, “come Unto Me!

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