Showing posts from February, 2023

When God Says, "Enough!"

When God says, “Enough!” Lamentations 2 “The Lord has rejected His altar, He has abandoned His sanctuary: He has delivered into the hand of the enemy.”               The people were confident of their protection.  They were confident that God would continue to bless them just as he had in the past.  They fell into the trap that we often fall into, and that is that we assume that the past blessings of God upon our nation will continue into the future and that we are exempt from judgment.  This was the attitude of Israel. They developed a false sense of security.  First, they thought God’s past blessings were the guarantee of his future protection.  However, they fail to recognize that God had warned them that his blessings upon their nation were grounded in their obedience to his law.  In Deuteronomy 9:4, God warned the nation of falling into the trap of thinking they were blessed with the land because of their unique position.  But God had made it clear that He gave the land to Israel

The Righteous Justice Of God

The Righteous Justice of God Lamentations 1:1-22 “The Lord is righteous; for I have rebelled against His command.”               Jonathan Edwards, in his classic sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” warns, “Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own security; he flatters himself in what he has done, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do.”  He goes on to state, “The foolish children of men do miserably delude themselves in their schemes, and in their confidence in their strength and wisdom; they trust to nothing but a shadow.”  It is indeed the folly of man to think that we can show contempt for the moral laws of God and his moral standard and yet escape the certainty of his judgment.              Of all the books of the Bible, perhaps Lamentations is the darkest.  The book is the Lament of Jeremiah as he sees the nation of Israel descend into ruin because of their sin.  Israel believe

Celebrating A New Covenant

Celebrating a New Covenant Jeremiah 31:31-40 “Behold days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.”               The Old Covenant was broken.  Not because the covenant was flawed, for the moral transformation demanded by the covenant was not faulty.  The problem was the people.  God had established the Mosaic covenant to form a relationship with the people of Israel. In the covenant, he had promised that he would be with the nation of Israel and care for them and bless them.  All that God required of them was that they walk in obedience to him and obey the moral law that he had established.  This law was given to be a way of life.  It was designed to protect people from the ravenous effects of sin and the destruction it brings.  However, the people continued to rebel instead of loving God and seeking God’s blessing.  Even though sin always brings destruction, they continued to run hellbent into sin and reject

When we feel decieved by God

  When we feel deceived by God Jeremiah 20:1-18 “O Lord, you have deceived me and I was deceived; you have overcome me and prevailed.”               If Jeremiah had a kindred spirit, it was found in Job. As we saw in the lament of Job, he felt abandoned by God after experiencing the tragedy of losing everything.  Consequently, Job concluded that it would have been better for him not to have been born.  Jeremiah echoes these same words in chapter 20.  When Jeremiah experienced God’s call to become a prophet, there was no doubt a spirit of excitement and anticipation.  It was a great honor to join the ranks of the great prophets of Israel.  But his joy soon turned to frustration and disillusionment.  The prophet who longed to proclaim God’s message would become known as the weeping prophet.  His ministry was one marked by depression, rejection, and discouragement.  Instead of pronouncing hope and joy to the people, he would be known as the one who pronounced judgment and distress.       

The Tale-Tell Heart

The Tale-Tell Heart Jeremiah 17:5-11 ‘The heart is more deceitful than all else..I, the Lord, search the heart.”               The most deceptive person we encounter is ourselves.  The most difficult thing to admit is that we have a corrupt nature.  In the Old Testament, the heart is seen as the center of the individual and refers to the totality of our inner or immaterial nature.  Thus the term is used to refer to our mind, character, and disposition.  It serves to encompass the three traditional personality functions of a person: emotions, thoughts, and will.  Yet even as it describes the totality of who we are, the scriptures warn of its danger.  The heart is corrupted by sin and is self-deceptive.  The Bible shows that the heart is the center of our sinful nature.  When Adam and Eve sinned, our total being was corrupted by its effect.  No longer is our inward being trustworthy. Yet, as humans, we continue to turn to human reason and our inward thoughts to determine right and wrong.

The Folly of Idolatry

The Folly of Idolatry Jeremiah 10 “There is none like You, O Lord; You are great, and great is your name in might.”               Any god that conforms to our thinking is a god too small.  Idolatry is not just worshiping an object that people make to represent God.  Idolatry is when we do God to our viewpoint.  The challenge in worshipping God is that he is so far exalted above us that we struggle to comprehend the depth of his being.  How does the finite grasps the infinite?  By making him limited.  Consequently, we conform him to what we think he should be rather than how he has revealed himself in scripture.  Instead of standing in awe of him and accepting his authority and word, reinterpret what the Bible says to align with our beliefs.              In Jeremiah 10, we find God ridiculing the idols of people’s making.  They take a piece of wood to craft a model to represent god. Then, they adorn it with silver and gold to “dress it up” to make it more ‘god-like.’  But a stick is sti

God's Personal Involvement

The Calling and empowerment of God. Jeremiah 1:4-10 “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you.”               In Jeremiah 1, we find an incredible statement about God’s involvement in our lives.  For the writers, God’s participation in our life begins even in the womb.  Contrary to the popular worldview that sees the unborn baby as a blob of issues that is not yet human, God sees the baby in the womb as a personal being with whom he is already involved and interacting to guide and develop the individual.  God treats the unborn as a human being with whom he has a personal relationship.  This is true not only of Jeremiah but all individuals. The psalmist also recognized this when he stated in Psalm 139, saying, “For you formed my inward parts; you wove me in my mother’s womb.”  God’s involvement in our life begins at conception.  As our bodies are being developed, God is actively engaged in our life, molding and shaping our personalities, a

Finding Answers in Life

Finding Answers in life.  Isaiah 55:1-12 “So will My word be which goes forth from my mount; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”               People today are unsatisfied with life.  We are searching for answers and solutions to our challenges but seem to find only more questions.  We look for answers to our country's issues and find only more problems. So where do we turn for answers?             In Isaiah 55, God invites us to come to him to find fulfillment, mercy, and the answers we desperately seek.  Not only does he ask us to go to him, but he also promises to give us all that we need in life without any cost on our part.  He desires to give us freely what we long to obtain—the hope and salvation he offers.  In the search to find satisfaction in life, there is only one source: God himself.  Material possession leaves us unsatisfied. Wealth becomes worthless.  But when we come to God, w

The Size of Your Problems or the Size of Your God

The size of your problems or the size of your God? Isaiah 40:9-17   “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand and marked off the heavens by the span?”               When facing struggles and challenges in life, we quickly become overwhelmed.  Adversity confronts us with our weaknesses and frailty. It challenges us with our mortality and finiteness. So many things happen that seem beyond our control and ability to manage.  Life, at times, can seem to be crushing.              In verse 1, God calls his people to be comforted.  But at times, these can seem a hollow promise.  When the sounds of marching armies are ringing in their ears, such a call can seem empty and meaningless. Until this point in the book, the focus has been on the pronouncement of God’s judgment upon the nations and Judah for their sin.  Chapter 39 closes with an escape from a near-death experience of Hezekiah.  But the deliverance of God produced in Hezekiah a sense of pride and self-worth.  As a result,

Finding Our Security in God's Word

Finding our security in God’s word. Isaiah 30 “In repentance and rest, you will be saved; in quietness and trust is your strength.”               It was a troubling time.  Israel was a buffer state between two superpowers vying for control over the Ancient Near East.  To the northeast, Assyria threatened to invade Judah in their quest to put pressure on Egypt.  To the south, Egypt stood firm in its position to remain the dominant superpower.  Lying in the middle of these superpowers was a small nation controlling the major thoroughfare between these two mighty nations.  The kingdom that gained control of the trade routes connecting Africa and Asia would control the ancient near east.  Because of this, Assyria had its eye on Judah.  They had already gained control of the northern portion of Israel.  To complete their conquest, they needed to capture Judah. Consequently, Judah had every reason to be concerned.  Those in power in Judah desired to ally with Egypt to protect themselves from

when God throws a Party

When God Throws a Party Isaiah 25 “For You have worked wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness...the Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain.”               Chapter 25 seems out of place.  In the previous chapters, Isaiah’s message is dark and foreboding.  Beginning in chapter 13, God gives a series of pronouncements of divine judgment upon all the nations around Israel.  The list of nations is a who’s who of the nations mentioned in the Bible, from the smaller nations such as Philistia to the large, powerful countries such as Assyria and Babylon.  The tone is set early in chapter 13 as he describes the coming judgment of the Lord as a time when “all hands will fall limp, and every man’s heart will melt” (13:7).  This theme of judgment then culminates in the final judgment when God will pour out his judgment upon all the world (chapter 24).  In response to these pronouncements, one might expect the concluding words to be more like

the Answer to Paralyzing Fear

The Answer to Paralyzing Fear.  Isaiah 8:5-15 “You are not to say, It is a conspiracy!”  In regard to all this, people call a conspiracy, and you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it.  It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy.  And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread.”               Israel was facing uncertain times.  Because of their sin and rejection of God’s law, they faced the upheaval of invasion and the uncertainty of the impending threat of an Assyrian attack on the land.  This threat was more than just a political threat; it was God’s judgment upon a nation that had abandoned God and his word. At first glance, it seemed that the threat against Israel was destroyed.  The people feared Samaria and Damascus, so when God pronounced judgment upon them and the Assyrians conquered them, the people of Israel regarded Assyria as their military savior. Thus the people trusted Assyria for their protection. However, the people rejected God.  As a

The Strength of Love

The Power of Love.  Song of songs 8:1-14   Put me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm.  For love is a strong as death, Jealousy is as severe as Sheol.  It flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord.  Many waters cannot quench love, nor will rivers overflow it; If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love, It would be utterly despised.”                 Vs. 6-7 provide the book's climax as the writer turns from the passion and expression of love to the nature of love to its enduring power.  Love is not just an emotional or physical response; it is a commitment and surrender of the will to the other person.  The verse begins with the bride affirming her loyalty to her husband.   IN asking him to put me like a seal over your heart, she is asking that her husband allow her to “own” him, not in the possessive, controlling sense, but in the willingness to give himself to her.  This is the same idea that Paul states in 1 Corinthians 7:4, “The wif

The Danger of Improper Love

The danger of Improper Love Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:5; 8:4; 8:8-9   “Do not arouse or awaken love until she pleases.”               We are a culture obsessed with sex.  It dominates our movies, music, and television.  Companies use it for advertising their products.  The irony is that in our age of sexually objectifying women, many women claim to be empowered by taking off their clothes.  Today's catchword is, “if you got it flaunt it.” What was once considered pornography is now considered mainstream.  Recently, shows such as “Game of Thrones”  became one of the most popular TV shows in the United States and globally, even though it was filled with scenes that previously were considered “adult” and pornographic. Our obsession with sexuality has changed how we perceive our identity.  Instead of our identity being based on God's image and his character's reflection, it is now based upon our sexual desires.               In our sexualized world, at first glance, it may seem th
Celebrating One Another. Song of Solomon 4:1-16 “You are altogether beautiful, my darling, and there is no blemish in you.”               As a photographer, there are times when everything comes together, and you get a remarkable photograph.  You are at the right place at the right time.  The lighting and colors are vibrant.  The angle is just right.  When you take the picture, the focus is perfect.  In the end, you know that you captured a rare photograph.  Someone once asked a well-known nature photographer how many great pictures he would take each year.  His answer was surprising.  For all the thousands of photos he takes each year, his goal is to get four exceptional pictures.  For those of us that are amateurs, that maybe only be four in our lifetime.  But when we capture that outstanding picture (at least in our own eyes), we want to have it enlarged and displayed in our house. We never tire of looking at it, for it not only captures a particular moment in time, it not only capt

Guarding the Marriage

Guarding the Marriage Song of Solomon 2:8-17 “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that are ruining the vineyards while our vineyards are in blossom.”               Marriage is not built on a single event, nor does it collapse because of a single event.  In most cases, marriages collapse, not over a big blowup over some major issue but through a series of minor insignificant disagreements that go unresolved and mount over time. In 2:8-17 we find the focus upon developing the marriage relationship.  Marriage is not built upon the starry-eyed wonder of the first date; it is built upon the work of developing the relationship and learning to value one another. In verses 8-9, the bride celebrates the groom's arrival.  With a longing look, she anticipates his appearance and his presence with her.  Marriage involves spending time together, nurturing the relationship, and developing a close bond as we share our lives together.  Companionship and spending time together become a priority

The Purpose of Marrage

The Purpose of Marriage Song of Solomon 1:1-17   “We will extol your love more than wine.”               The Song of Solomon is one most misunderstood books of the Bible.  The explicit language in the book has caused people and scholars to blush. Because of this, some have questioned its place in the canon, while others have sought to spiritualize the meaning to refer to Christ’s love for the church.  However, both conclusions are in error.  To understand the book, we need to place it in the overarching theology of God’s purpose for humanity. From the outset of creation, the marriage relationship and the family are the bedrock upon which all society is built. God designed society to be based upon the union of a man and woman to form the nucleus of the family.  This union had a two-fold purpose.  First, it is the foundation for accomplishing God’s purpose in creating humans.  In Genesis 2:18, marriage provides the foundation for God’s purpose for humanity.  Adam could not perform the ta

The Key to Life

The Key to Life Ecclesiastes 12:9-14 “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: Fear God and keep His commandments because this applies to every person.”               What is the key to life?  Throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon searches diligently and turns over every stone to find the answer.  He has examined all the answers that people might give.  For many, life and meaning are found in a life of happiness and the pursuit of materialism. But after closely examining these, he concluded that it was chasing after the wind.  It was an endless pursuit with no conclusion (2:1-11).  For others, their mantra was “success comes for those who work hard.”  But this, too a futile pursuit, for in the end, it brought only pain and grief with no rest (2:18-23). Finally, he examined the pursuit of wealth and riches, which many see as the key to security in life.  But it brought only vexation for, after hard work and sleepless nights, his money was through bad investments (5:10-17).  S

Finding Wisdom in Unlikely Places

Finding Wisdom in Unlikely places  Ecclesiastes 7:1-14 “Consider the work of God, for who is able to straighten what He has bent.”                No one likes a wet blanket at a party, the gloomy person who only brings negativity when people are celebrating the joys of life.  The same is true in our worship.  We want the church to be a place of joy and the worship to be uplifting.  We want sermons to be positive and redemptive, proclaiming God’s love rather than foreboding and foreshadowing divine judgment.  Because of this, the words of Ecclesiastes 7 seem more like a sermon by Digby O’dell  (“The Friendly Undertaker”  in the Radio show “Life of Riley”) rather than the joyous optimism of Pollyanna (Ok, so I am showing my age here in my choice of shows).  Instead of going to the house of feasting, the sage encourages us to go to the house of mourning.  Yet he is not trying to give us a depressing view of life.  Rather he is confronting us with a realistic look at life in a sin-marred w

Approaching God with the Right Attitude

Approaching God with the Right Attitude Ecclesiastes 5:1-7  “Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools.”               Familiarity can breed flippancy.  We live in a time when we have more information and access to teaching regarding God and his redemptive plan than at any other time in history.  We have multiple bibles on the shelf.  We can turn to radio, tv or listen to podcasts on the internet to hear gifted preachers expound upon the truths of God.  We have multiple options for where to attend church.  We are inundated with messages (and rightfully so) that God loves us and desires a personal relationship with us.  As a result, we can become complacent about worship, and our worship can become more man-centered than God-centered.  Tragically, our worship often focuses more on what God does for us rather than who God is.  Ultimately, we can become flippant in our worship and attitude toward God.  We start to vi