I’m changing the order this morning. As of today, I will be doing this blog first, and then proceeding to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit. I need to stop short-changing myself and God in this devotional blog, so I’m doing it first.
Before I get into the Bible readings, I will say that we heard a most amazing message, yesterday morning, taken from Romans 3:9–22. It was a message about sin. That’s right. We rarely hear messages about sin in this day of hesitation to do anything that makes people not feel good about themselves. But, even so, that was not the purpose of this message. The purpose of this message was…encouragement. Right. No, really. And the main point of the message, that he repeated several times, was “Grace is God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.” My favorite part of the message was when he completely trashed the popular evangelical comparison of our plight to someone who has fallen overboard from a boat, and someone in the boat throws a life preserver out to us, and all we have to do is grab hold of it and hold onto it. The problem with that comparison is that, over and over again, we are told in Scripture that we are DEAD in sin. The last time I checked, a dead man, floating in the water, has no power to grab hold of anything! And this, people, is why it is GRACE! “Grace is God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.”
Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
As soon as the wise men had left their house, God told Joseph to get out of there! This was to protect them from what comes next.
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
Herod lets his “true colors” come out, at this point. He is furious at being tricked and kills every male child in the country, two years old or under (which is another indication of how old Jesus probably was by the time the wise men got there). Notice that each of the above actions is also a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.
19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
This really needs no extra commentary; it is all pretty self-explanatory. But notice, yet another prophecy fulfillment. Oddly enough, the Reformation Study Bible points out that there is no exact OT reference that says that “He shall be called a Nazarene.” The point of this entire passage is that no early king could thwart God’s plan to bring the King of kings into the world.
In the beginning of chapter 7, the Lord shows Amos two visions of what is to take place. Amos pleads for the forgiveness of Israel, saying, “O Lord GOD, please forgive! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!” In both cases, it is stated that The LORD relented concerning this: “It shall not be,” said the LORD. Did God really change his mind? I’m not fully equipped to answer that. I have always taken literally the statement that God makes when he says that he is not a man, that he should change his mind. But there seem to be instances where he is moved to show mercy, based on the intercessory prayer of someone. Now, I say “there seem to be…” Things are not always what they seem.
Then God shows Amos a plumb line, a tool that measures whether or not something is straight. He tells Amos that the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword. (v. 9) Immediately after this, Amos is accused of conspiracy before Jeroboam. He is told by Amaziah to flee and never again prophecy at Bethel. Amos’s response to Amaziah was this: Your wife shall be a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be divided up with a measuring line; you yourself shall die in an unclean land, and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land. Don’t ever tell a prophet not to prophecy.
Chapter 8 is a very desolate chapter. It begins with the Lord showing Amos a basket of summer fruit. How weird is that? There is an explanation in the Reformation Study Bible notes that I would not know otherwise. It says that the Hebrew word for “end” sounds very similar to the Hebrew word for “summer fruit.” Any Hebrew scholars out there that can verify this? The prophecy of chapter 8 comes to a head (in my opinion), beginning with verse 9. “And on that day,” declares the Lord GOD, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. 10 I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on every waist and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day. 11 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land– not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.”
All of these prophecies will come true as Israel is destroyed. I can’t help but compare verse 11 with our modern age. We do still have preachers who truly preach the “words of the LORD,” but they are getting fewer. Many preachers preach their own words, sawing and hacking at the Word of God until it is almost unrecognizable. It may not be too long before our own land has a “famine…of hearing the words of the LORD.”
I can’t read the first 8 verses of this chapter and not think of that song. The Byrds, Roger McGuinn, and his Rickenbacker guitar. Always wanted one of those…Anyway. (I’m not sure why there are random scenes from “Forrest Gump” in this video.)
The truth and wisdom of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is almost staggering. It is true. There is a time for everything under heaven. It takes great wisdom to know when it’s time to dance and when it’s time to mourn. There is a segment of modern society that can’t tell the difference. It’s always time to dance. And the encouragement of verse 8…there will be a time for peace. There really will be.
Verse 11 also tells us that God “has made everything beautiful in its time.” And that “he has put eternity into man’s heart.” Once again, the “preacher” says that the best thing is for man to “eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil–this is God’s gift to man.” (v. 13)
Verses 16-22 affirm that all beings come to the same end. All go back to the dust. Verse 21 is interesting. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? It is worth noting that in 12:7, the “preacher” states that the spirit returns to God, who made it.
Father, I think you that everything has its time. I also thank you that you have made everything beautiful in its time. I praise you for putting eternity into our hearts. Especially for directing my own heart to follow after you instead of mindlessly chasing after the things of this world. I do enough chasing after the word as it is. I shudder to think what circumstances I would be in if you were not in my life.
I pray for this world, Lord, and the way your word is treated in it. I pray for a return to true, biblical preaching. I pray that your Spirit would touch everyone who calls themselves a “preacher” and change their hearts so that they stop adding their own words to your words. Let them preach only the truth.
I thank you again, that you have led us to a place where we can worship. Stephanie loves it as well, and that makes us very happy and grateful. I pray now that you help us get “connected” with other believers in this fellowship.
I pray for Christi’s day today. The big project seems to have gone well, but there will be aftermath as they work to tweak things. I pray that she not have to work a lot of extra hours this week. I also pray for rest for all who were involved in the project over the weekend.
I pray for my day at work today. Let this day be smooth, and this week, as well.
I pray for Gina, Lord, Diane’s sister. Their family needs great comfort and healing right now, Father. Wrap your arms around them and hold them tightly. Let them feel your great love today!
Thank you for restoration in friendships, Father.
“Grace is God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.”
Grace and peace, friends.