Friday, February 24, 2017

The Structure of Zephaniah, part 1

This Old Testament book was written by Zephaniah, whose name means “God has secreted” or “Jehovah hides.” He was of royal lineage as is revealed in the first verse.
Though he prophesied in a time of revival, the coming captivity was imminent and Zephaniah points out that the revival is superficial. He foretells the coming invasion of Nebuchadnezzar, judgment on certain peoples, the moral state of Israel and the judgment of the nations followed by kingdom blessing under Messiah.
If you read the first chapter you’ll notice how angry God is in verses 2 and 3. In Genesis we read the creation account and learned that God created the fish then the birds then the animals and then man. Now here we have God sweeping everything from the face of the earth and in the reverse order: men, then animals then birds then fish. Despite the awfulness of these verses I can’t help but be amazed at God’s order. For those who like to say that the God of the Old Testament seems vengeful, angry and bloodthirsty and that their God is kind and loving, I’d like to point out that God is both loving and just. Of course He is going to get angry. When will man honor, worship, love and obey only Him?
There were 7 types of people that God will “cut off” according to chapter 1. They are pagans (vs.4), astrologers (vs.5), worshipers of other gods (vs.5), those who reject God (vs.6), those who side with the heathen (vs. 8), idol worshipers (vs. 9) and those who presume that God is indifferent to them (vs.12). What do these 7 groups of people have in common?

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Structure of the Old Testament Book of Habakkuk

Habakkuk is a small, but important book in the Old Testament. This little book was written by the prophet Habakkuk, whose name means either “the embracer” or “the wrestler.” Interestingly, Habakkuk wrestled with the question of why God would let evil go unpunished and why God would bring tragedy and misfortune on His own people. But at the same time he embraced salvation by faith.
Let’s read Habakkuk’s 1st complaint in chapter 1, verses 2 through 4 (New International version):
2 How long, O LORD, must I call for help,
       but you do not listen?
       Or cry out to you, "Violence!"
       but you do not save?

 3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
       Why do you tolerate wrong?
       Destruction and violence are before me;
       there is strife, and conflict abounds.
 4 Therefore the law is paralyzed,
       and justice never prevails.
       The wicked hem in the righteous,
       so that justice is perverted.
Well, people just don’t seem to follow God’s rules and Habakkuk doesn’t seem to understand why God allows this to go on. The law is paralyzed and justice doesn’t prevail. The evildoers are surrounding the righteous and justice is perverted. This sounds pretty current to me. Think about it. Here are the same verses in a really modern translation (The Message):
1-4 The problem as God gave Habakkuk to see it: God, how long do I have to cry out for help
   before you listen?
How many times do I have to yell, "Help! Murder! Police!"
   before you come to the rescue?
Why do you force me to look at evil,
   stare trouble in the face day after day?
Anarchy and violence break out,
   quarrels and fights all over the place.
Law and order fall to pieces.
   Justice is a joke.
The wicked have the righteous hamstrung
   and stand justice on its head.

We find God’s answer in verses 5 – 11 and essentially God says He is going to use the Babylonians to punish Israel.
What’s Habakkuk’s next complaint?

Friday, February 10, 2017

Ever Hear of the Bible Book Called "NAHUM" ?

The book of Nahum was written by Nahum, a prophet who was a contemporary of Jeremiah. It had been about 150 years since Jonah was sent to Ninevah. Ninevah had repented, but now the people were turning away from God. (What else is new?)
Nahum’s name means consolation or comfort.
Nahum 3:7:

“And it shall come to pass, that all they that look upon thee shall flee from thee, and say, Nineveh is laid waste: who will bemoan her?  Whence shall I seek comforters for thee?” 
We Christians think of God as loving, kind and gentle and often forget that He is righteous and fierce and will avenge our faithlessness with great wrath. To get a real feel for this read the opening of the book of Nahum: chapter 1, verses 1 – 6:

 1 A prophecy concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.
 2 The LORD is a jealous and avenging God;
   the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath.
The LORD takes vengeance on his foes
   and vents his wrath against his enemies.
3 The LORD is slow to anger but great in power;
   the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished.
His way is in the whirlwind and the storm,
   and clouds are the dust of his feet.
4 He rebukes the sea and dries it up;
   he makes all the rivers run dry.
Bashan and Carmel wither
   and the blossoms of Lebanon fade.
5 The mountains quake before him
   and the hills melt away.
The earth trembles at his presence,
   the world and all who live in it.
6 Who can withstand his indignation?
   Who can endure his fierce anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire;
   the rocks are shattered before him.

As I’ve explained in my book CROSSING THE SCRIPTURES there are phenomenal links between the 22 Hebrew letters and the 66 books of the Bible. Nahum corresponds to the 12th Hebrew letter, lamed, as does 2nd Kings. We are 22 books past the book of 2nd Kings where Elijah was carried up in a whirlwind, where the Jordon was dried up, where the chariot and horses of fire separated Elijah and Elisha. Did you see these three things again in these verses? Isn’t it amazing how there are links between the books that match up with the same Hebrew letter?

In fact, back in 2nd Kings chapters 15, 18 and 19 you can find the story, the fulfillment of the prophesy found here in Nahum, chapter 1, verses 7 -14. Pull out your Bible and work it out for yourself.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Micah, part 3

Let’s look at the fulfilled prophecy in the little Old Testament book of Micah.
Here’s one verse from chapter 5:
 2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
   though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
   one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
   from ancient times.”
Has this prophecy been fulfilled? Yes, Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
In chapter 6 the writer asks about coming before the Lord with burnt offerings. He even asks if he should offer his firstborn for his transgressions. What does God answer? Read 6:8:

8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
   And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
   and to walk humbly with your God.

So, God DOES NOT require sacrifices. He’s going to take care of that for us. What he requires from us is to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God.
Final thoughts on Micah – read 7: 18-20 and feel the great relief in these words:

18 Who is a God like you,
   who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
   of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
   but delight to show mercy.
19 You will again have compassion on us;
   you will tread our sins underfoot
   and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
20 You will be faithful to Jacob,
   and show love to Abraham,
as you pledged on oath to our ancestors
   in days long ago.

If I were a Jew I would be clinging to these verses for sure. In them we find so much hope and mercy and love.