Showing posts from March, 2023

The day of the Lord Pt. 2: The Valley of Decision

The Day of the Lord Pt 2:  The Time of Decision Joel 3:9-21 “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.”               The Day of the Lord culminates in the final judgment of humanity.  In verse 14, the Day of the Lord is referred to as the “valley of decision.”  However, this is not the decision of man to accept or reject God; instead, this is the decision of the Lord regarding people's judgment. Christ predicts this coming judgment upon all humanity in Matthew 24-25, in which Christ returns and will judge all people and nations (see also Revelation 20:11-14).  This judgment will be a time when Christ pronounces his verdict.  He is the judge now making the decision.  For those who rejected God’s salvation, it will be a time of terror as the “Lord roars from Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth tremble.”               However, on this day of judgment, there is also rejoicing.  For t

The Coming day of the Lord Pt. 1: When God is revealed

The Coming day of the Lord Pt. 1:  When God is revealed.  Joel 2:30-3:21 “Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.”               When we think of the character and self-revelation of God, we think of Romans 1 and the glory of God that is revealed in his works of creation. We see the beauty of a brilliant sunset and think, “There is a God.”  We contemplate the majestic beauty of Mt Adams, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Rainer and say, “There is God.”  We reflect upon the cross upon which Christ died and are reminded that on that hill, God displayed his grace and love for us, and we say, “There is God.”  In Joel 2:28-29 our attention is taken to the events of Pentecost (Acts 2) when the Holy Spirit is poured upon his people to empower us to live rightly before God.  Again as we say, “There is God.”              In Joel 2:30 through 3:17, our attention is again drawn to the Day of the Lord.  However, what captures our attention is that the message of salvation and the coming of the Holy Spirit

The God who Empowers

When God Empowers Joel 2:28-29.  “It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind, and your sons and daughters will prophesy, and your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.  Even on the male and female servants, I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”               Where do we find hope in our daily struggles?  We all know the pain and struggle with sin.  We do things that harm others and ourselves, yet we seem powerless in the face of the struggle.  We want to do right.  We want to always respond with grace.  We want to live free from addictions and temptations.  We want to honor God and please him.  Yet we struggle.  Daily the words of Paul resonate with us, “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want…Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death.” Yet, for all our resolve and commitment to do what is right and not do what is wrong, we still fail continually.  We

The Coming Day of the Lord

The Coming Day of the Lord Joel 2 “For the day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near.”               In Joel 2, we are introduced to a theme found throughout the prophetic writings of the Old Testament: the coming “day of the Lord.”  This theme speaks of God’s immediate judgment upon Israel and the final and future judgment upon the world coming at the end of the age. Historically, we see God’s judgment upon specific nations at specific times for their sin.  But this past and present judgment foreshadows a future judgment prophesied in the book of Revelation when God brings his final judgment upon sin and restores the universe to its pre-fall condition.               While the ‘day of the Lord’ foretells judgment, it is also a promise of salvation for those who call upon the name of the Lord.  For those who embrace the salvation of Christ, it will usher in a day of blessing redemption. Like the promise of future judgment, there is also the promise of future salvation when the Spirit

The Devastating Judgment of God

The Devastating Judgment of God.  Joel 1:   “Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.”               When we celebrate the character of God, we sing songs of his grace and mercy.  We rejoice in the salvation he offers.  We find hope in the infinite love he has for us.  And rightfully so, for God's grace, mercy, and love are attributes worthy of his praise and adoration.  They provide us with hope and security.  But do we praise him for his justice, wrath, and judgment?  A god is loving, but not just, is a god who tolerates and even condones evil.  A god who does not punish is a god who is indifferent toward the evil that people might do.  Yet, for those facing persecution because of their faith, their hope is found in the realization that evil will not always win the day and that God will execute his judgment and justice upon sin.   The book of Joel begins with a

God's longing for his people.

God’s longing for his people. Hosea 11 “My heart is turned over within me, all my compassions are kindled.”               Having someone reject and devalue the love we show them is one of the most painful experiences we can have. Alfred Tennyson wrote, “Tis better to love and lost than never to have loved at all” in response to the death of his close friend.  Yet it is one thing when that loss is due to death, but it is quite another when it is due to rejection and disdain. Of course, we grieve the loss of a loved one, perhaps grieving for the rest of our lives.  But the love remains for the person.  However, to be rejected by another, our love turns to hatred and despair. Rejection is a pain that never retreats.             In Hosea 11, we find God lamenting the rejection of the people he loved.  In verse 1, God affirms his deep love for the people of Israel, a love that led God to save his people from their bondage in Egypt.  In verse 3, we see God pictured as a loving father who car

The Restoration of God

The Restoration of God Hosea 6 “So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord, His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.” (vs. 4).               In chapter 4, we saw the devastating effects of abandoning God.  As we see our nation and our lives descend into the abyss of moral and spiritual darkness, we sometimes wonder if there is any hope.  In 5:6, Hosea warns that the time may come when people will seek the Lord, but they will not find him; He has withdrawn from them. Instead of pursuing God’s law, they have “gone deep in depravity.”  However, even as God pronounces judgment, he offers to extend his grace and restoration if they turn back to him.  Chapter 6 begins with an affirmation of God’s grace.  No matter how harsh the discipline of God is, he is willing to restore and revive the people if they return to the Lord.  When the term “return” is used to describe the activity of Israel, it refers to com

The Greatest Threat to Humanity

The Greatest Threat to Humanity Hosea 4:1-19   “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest.  Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”               The greatest threat to humanity is not an environmental disaster or nuclear war, or economic collapse.  The ultimate threat to society is ignorance, not ignorance of science, but ignorance of God’s moral law.  In chapter 4, God brings his legal complaint against the people of Israel.  Disasters are decimating the nation.  They faced a crisis of morality and social stability (vs. 2).  Natural disasters plagued the country, so even the land was mourning.  They faced wars and violence throughout the land as the society descended into lawlessness.  As a result, people were in an endless search for satisfaction and fulfillment.  The more they obtain, the emptier they feel.  We see these same events happening in our country

The God who Judges and Forgives

  The God who Judges and Forgives Hosea 1 “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sands of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered.  And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people, it shall be said to them, Children of the living God.”               Hosea begins with a foreboding message.  Hosea is commanded to marry a woman who would prove to be unfaithful. As a result, she would abandon her marital vows and pursue other lovers.  This provided a living visual of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God.  Soon after the marriage, she conceives and gives birth to a son who is given a dark name, Jezreel, the name of the valley where Israel had many significant and violent events.  The name serves as a prophetic announcement that Israel has abandoned God, and as a result, God will bring severe judgment upon the nation of Israel.               After the birth of Jezreel, Gomer conceives and gives birth to a daughter.  God commands Hosea to provide her wi

God's sovereign Control of History

God’s Sovereign Control of History Daniel 9 “In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel observed in the books of the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolation of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.”               Jeremiah was a prophet that pronounced the coming judgment upon Israel.  Because they refused to obey God’s law, God brought judgment upon them.  However, in Jeremiah 25:11,12, and 29:10, God promised that he would again bring the people back to the land of Israel.  Scholars estimate (we do not know for certain) that he was around fifteen when he was taken captive in 605 B.C.  Thus he would be over eighty years old when Darius became ruler of Babylon in 538 B.C.  Consequently, Daniel recognized that the prophecy was coming to the time of its fulfillment.  Thus, he began to pray both for God’s fulfillment of the prophecy and to offer a prayer of repentance for the people of Israel.  In his prayer, Da

When God Humbles, He also Exalts.

 When God Humbles, he also Exalts.  Daniel 4 “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.”                Mohamed Ali, known for his braggart personality, once stated, “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.” These words were the anthem of Nebuchadnezzar.  In Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar was presented as the pinnacle of human leaders in the vision he received from God. In the dream, he was described as the king of kings who ruled over the earth.  However, rather than giving glory to God for his exalted position, he started to glorify himself.  In chapter 3, he set up a giant golden statue and demanded that everyone worship and do homage to it.  Even when God delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from his clutches and revealed his power over Nebuchadnezzar, he still honored himself.              In chapter 4, we find Nebuchadnezzar again having another vis

God's protective hand.

God's Protective Hand Daniel 3  “If this is so, our God whom we serve can deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have sent up.”               What happens when our worse fear becomes a reality?  More often than not, the things we fear and become anxious about fail to materialize.  How many times do we needlessly worry about what is only what we fabricated in our thinking? The two things perhaps we fear the most are death and rejection.  We want to be included in the crowd.  But sometimes, the things we fear the most become a reality, and it shakes our faith.             Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were confronted with their worst fear.  They were forced to bow down to the image of Nebuchadnezzar and worship him as a god. If they refused, they would be burned alive in a fiery furnace.  To further add to

The God who Controls History

Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; he gives wisdom to. Wise men and knowledge to men of understanding.”               When the winds of politics blow, it seems arbitrary and haphazard.  Our country continually vacillates between the Republican and Democratic parties, forever searching for answers confronting our society but being disappointed by the next elected official.  The problem is that we are looking for political solutions to spiritual problems.             Nebuchadnezzar had a troubling dream in Daniel 2 (which parallels Daniel 7).  It is so disconcerting that he refuses to reveal the dream to his magicians, for he wants genuine answers, not fanciful interpretations. Finally, after they fail to tell of his plan, Daniel arrives.  But Daniel was not like the other magicians who relied upon sorcery and trickery; he relied upon the living God.  After praying about the matter with his three friends, God reve

The Sovereign God Who Determines Our Destiny

The Sovereign God who Determines our Destiny Daniel 1 “As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of vision and dreams.” (vs. 17).   We can only imagine the thoughts of Daniel and his three friends as they trudged through the wilderness.  Forced by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar into exile, they were taken from their land and required to march to Nineveh (a distance of approx. 700 miles).  These young teens were driven to leave their homes (and perhaps their families) and march the distance.  They were leaving the world they knew and a place of security and going to a world of the unknown.  They were faced with grave uncertainty.  We can only imagine the fear and anxiety within them as they were forced and prodded along the journey. Everything they knew was left behind, except for one thing, and it was the one thing they needed most as they marched into an apprehensive future. It was the on

God: The Restorer of Life

God: Restorer of Life Ezekiel 37 “Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come out of your graves, my people.  I will put My Spirt within you, and you will come to life.”               From a human standpoint, the nation of Israel was destroyed.  After their defeat by the Assyrians and their exile, the nation was gone.  In Ezekiel 37:1-10, the prophet compares the nation to a valley of dry, sunbaked bones that we scattered about.  The picture presents the full depth of the hopelessness of the nation.  The fact that the bones were dry and sunbaked points to the fact that the nation of Israel had been dead for a long time.  They were a nation without hope.  The bones (Israel) had been dead so long that no life remained and no hope for life. Furthermore, the bones were scattered and separate from one another, indicating that the people were dispersed from one another.   In the popular movie, The Princess Bride, the character, Miracle Max, de

The Shepherd God

The Shepherd God Ezekiel 34:1-31 “As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day.”               Chapter 34 of Ezekiel begins with an indictment against the leaders of Israel (vs. 1-5).  Using the analogy of the role of a shepherd, God condemns them for their failure to care for the people. Instead of caring for the people, they used the people to advance their own prosperity.  Instead of feeding the flock, they confiscated the food for themselves.  They were indifferent to the weak and the sick.  Like many leaders throughout history, as long as their personal needs were met, they did not care what happened to the people. As shepherd-leaders, God had appointed them to provide for the people and protect them.  They were to search for those who were lost.  But these false shepherds were unconcerned about the needs of the people. 

Following the Right Leader

Following the Right Leader Ezekiel 13 “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy from their own inspiration, ‘listen to the word of the Lord!”                          Whom we listen to is who we become.  The people we turn to for guidance will influence our lives and our own perspective.  So where do we turn to discover the truth in an age of conflicting messages?  How do we evaluate the messages we are to listen to?  This is especially critical regarding the church and the pastors we follow.  How do we evaluate their message?             In Ezekiel 13, where God condemns the false prophets of Israel, we find some key answers. When looking for a church, listen to the message proclaimed from the pulpit.  First, look for a church where the pastor desires to be prophetic rather than popular.  The false prophets were concerned about their popularity.  In verse 4, God warns that the false prophets are like foxes among the ruins. The fox

Faithfulness not Success in Ministry

Faithfulness not Success in Ministry. Ezekiel 2-3 “As for them, whether they listen or not—they will know that a prophet has been among them.”               Ezekiel faced a daunting task.  The nation of Israel had rejected God and pursued their idols.  Rather than following God and obeying the commandment, they adopted idolatry and paganism around them.  However, even though God was pronouncing judgment upon Israel, God had not completely abandoned them.  He continued to send his prophets among them to proclaim his message.  After the appearance of the glory of God, The spirit of God empowers Ezekiel to be his prophetic voice among the nation.  However, the calling would not be easy for Ezekiel would face severe opposition.  His ministry would not be popular, his message would not be accepted, and he would be severely ridiculed for his preaching.  It was not an encouraging call.  Instead of assuring Ezekiel that the people would respond to his message, God warns him that he is sending

Not Aliens but God's Glory

Not Aliens but God’s Glory Ezekiel 1 “Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.  And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking.”                The description of Ezekiel’s vision has led to many fanciful interpretations.  Some, who reject the inspiration of the Bible, see this vision as some fantastic appearance of an alien spaceship.  However, these are not aliens from another planet, but Cherubim (see 10:5,20). In art and literature, Cerubim are pictured as “baby-angels.”  They are presented as babies with wings who are in adorable poses.  However, as we read through this vision of Ezekiel, we discover that these angelic beings are hardly cuddly babies. These mighty angels are the appointed guardians of the holiness of God.  Their purpose is to provide continual praise before God (see Isaiah 6) and to prevent anything unholy from coming into the presence of a holy God. The whole scene serves to picture God’s unfathomable glory, which is beyo

When all is Gone: Pray

When all is gone-Pray Lamentations 5 “Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us; look, and see our reproach!”               The book of Lamentations ends with the only place a person can turn when life turns dark.  Like the Psalms of Lament, Jeremiah had cried out to God in the darkest house of Judah’s history. Nevertheless, Jeremiah acknowledged throughout the book that God is just and righteous in his judgment of Israel.  In 1:18, Jeremiah affirms that God is righteous in bringing the calamity upon Judah, for Judah has rebelled against His commands.  Throughout the Bible, the justice of God is seen both in his forgiveness of sin and his judgment upon those who continue to reject his law.   For God to allow sin to go unpunished would imply that he tolerates and approves evil.   The story of the whole Bible is not only of God’s redemption for sinful man but also God’s inevitable judgment for those who reject his word and continue to rebel against him.  Furthermore, in the justice of God,