The Plumbline ? We’ll never measure up….but Jesus straightens us up.

31 12 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY-NINE : Amos 6 v. 1 – 7 v. 17; Romans 4 v. 16 – 5 v. 11; Psalm 86 v. 11 – 17

Woe To The Complacent – this is a warning to the complacent in Zion, those who feel too comfortable on Mt. Samaria, noteworthy, respectable people. They are told to go and visit Calneh, Hamath and Gath, and to see if their land is better, bigger.
‘You put off the evil day, and bring near a reign of terror’ – their life of luxury has blinded them to the dangers on their doorstep.
They have spent too much time on their ivory beds and couches, fine dining, playing their harps and various other instruments, drinking and drinking fine wine, covering themselves in ‘the finest lotions’, paying no attention to the ‘ruin of Joseph’.
‘Therefore, you will be among the first to go into exile; your feasting and lounging will end.’

The Lord Abhors The Pride Of Israel – The Lord makes an oath (in His own name) declaring that He abhors Jacob’s pride, detests his fortresses, and will deliver the city up to enemies, and everything within it.
Not one person will be left in a house; everyone will perish, and the name of the Lord will not even be uttered through fear.
‘For the Lord has given the command…’
great homes will be smashed to pieces, small homes utterly destroyed,
(v. 12, God asks two questions designed to show that trying to please Him, to earn righteousness, is as impossible as horses running on craggy rocks, or oxen ploughing there)
because they have turned justice to poison, righteousness into bitterness,
claiming with pride that the conquering of Lo Debar and Karnaim was all down to their own strength.
God will stir up a nation to rise against Israel, to oppress them all the way from Lebo Hamath to the Arabah.

Locusts, Fire And A Plumb-Line – Amos tells how he was allowed to see that God was preparing a swarm of locusts to devour the second crop (after the first crop, which was always the king’s share – royal taxes). Amos could foresee the whole land stripped clean by the locusts, and cried out to God for Him to forgive and not punish little Jacob so harshly. ‘So the Lord relented’.
The Lord planned to send a judgment-fire to dry up the waters, and devour the whole land. Amos cried out to God for Him to stop, for little Jacob could not possibly survive that. The Lord relented, and said it wouldn’t now happen.
The Lord showed Amos a plumbline, and a wall that had been built true to plumb.
God used this visual to tell Amos, ‘I am setting a plumb-line among my people Israel – I will spare them no longer’. Israel was being judged to be like a dangerously leaning wall.
God announces that Isaac’s high places will be destroyed, Isaac’s sanctuaries ruined, and a sword will be raised up against Jeroboam.

Amos And Amaziah – So now, Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, rises up against Amos, sending a message to Jeroboam, king of Israel, stating that Amos is conspiring against Israel and the king, quoting Amos’s words about Jeroboam facing death by the sword and all Israel being exiled.
Amaziah confronts Amos directly, telling him to get back to Judah, and practise his ‘profession’ there (a paid prophet). He tells him to leave Bethel, the king’s sanctuary and temple.
Amos replies ‘I was neither a prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees’. Amos is certainly not a paid, professional prophet. However, his testimony is that the Lord took him from his shepherding, with a message to prophesy to Israel. Amaziah is told :
– your wife will become a prostitute
– your children will die by the sword
– your land will be divided up
– you will die in a pagan country
– all Israel will be exiled, taken away from their native land.


Abraham – Paul reiterates that the promise came to Abraham, not as a result of his keeping the law, but because of his faith. ‘Abraham is the father of all’ (of those who are ‘of the law’, but also of those who ‘are of the faith of Abraham’). He is indeed the Father of many nations.
‘Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations’ – the promise of a child in their old age seemed hopeless, yet Abraham believed in a God who ‘gives life to the dead’ and who ‘calls things that are not as though they were’ (i.e. creating things from nothing, making things exist).
Against all the odds, ‘he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised’. Abraham’s faith in God grew, rather than diminished, as he waited for this unlikely promise to be fulfilled. It is this very faith which is credited to Abraham as righteousness, and is an everlasting sign or example for us ‘who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead’.
Jesus died for our sins, and was raised to life so that we may know true forgiveness (justification), our sins dealt with, our life set free.

Peace and Joy – Jesus’ actions in His death and resurrection have justified us, who believe, and have led to :
– a life of peace with God
– a grace in which to stand (a firm footing in life)
– a hope in which to rejoice, the glory of God, His blessings upon us
– a path to victory, through suffering, perseverance, character-building, to hope
– a love poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (which will continue to grow to complete holiness / sanctification)
‘You see, at the just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly….God demonstrates His own love for us in this : While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ – the glory of the gospel, eh!
The blood of Jesus has dealt with our sin, and so we have no fear of the coming judgment.
The death of Jesus has reconciled us to God, and so we can be sure we are saved though His life.
‘We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation’.

My Lord, my God, teach me to walk in the ways of Your truth;
Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name.
My Lord, my God, I will praise You with every part of my being, with all my heart,
I will bring glory to Your name for ever and ever.
For Your love towards me is very great; You have saved me from the punishment of death itself.

My Lord, my God, see how the arrogant attack me –
The ruthlessness of those who pay You no thought.
But You, my Lord, my God, are
not easily angered
overflowing with love
overwhelmingly faithful.
Take a look at my life, once again, Lord.
Show me mercy, grant me strength, save me.
Give me a sign so that –
I may know Your goodness,
and my enemies may know You and be covered in shame.
My Lord, my God, You are my helper.
You are my comforter.
Thank You.


Walking in the footsteps of faith

30 12 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY-EIGHT : Amos 5 v. 1 – 27; Romans 4 v. 1 – 15; Psalm 86 v. 1 – 10

A Lament And Call To Repentance – Amos cries out a lament, as if at a funeral for all Israel:
‘Fallen is Virgin Israel, never to rise again, deserted in her own land, with no-one to lift her up.’
Amos says that the Sovereign Lord announces that cities of thousands will be reduced to hundreds, cities of hundreds will have only tens. But there’s still a chance:
‘Seek me and live’
they are to turn away from the false gods of Bethel and Gilgal (they will be destroyed completely)
‘Seek the Lord and live’
or the devouring fire will sweep through the house of Joseph.
The Lord sets himself as the creator of all, with the power to turn day into night, who summons the waters of the sea, who can destroy strongholds, against the people of Israel, who have turned justice into bitterness, chucked their righteousness in the gutter, and who have despises those who speak the truth.
God is angered by their trampling of the poor, so God says they will no longer live in their posh stone mansions, and they will not drink the fantastic wine produced by their lush vineyards.
‘For I know how many are your offences, and how great your sins’ :
– oppressing the righteous
– depriving the poor of justice
– making the wise stay silent, instead of confronting evil
‘Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say He is.’
They are to turn from loving evil, to rather hate evil and to love good. Then the Lord God Almighty may show mercy on the remnant of Joseph.

God foresees and foretells
~ wailing on the streets
~ anguished cries in public squares
~ farmers weeping
~ mourning will get louder and more intense
~ wailing in the vineyards
”for I will pass through your midst’ says the Lord.’

The Day Of The Lord – the coming day of the Lord (‘the earliest discussion of an important theme among the prophets. The people evidently expected a time when God would deliver them from all their enemies, but Amos condemns their faulty expectations’) will not be good news for Israel in the state Amos is addressing:
– it will be darkness, not light
– like fleeing from a lion, into the grasp of a bear
– like having a snake bite you in the safety of your own home
– it will be pitch-black, with no ray of brightness
‘I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies.’
The offerings they bring are unacceptable to God, their songs are just noise to Him, because of the unrighteous, unholy lives.
‘But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!’

Rather than remember God’s faithfulness, and celebrate continually the deliverance God brought Israel (through the wilderness, from Egypt), they have built altars to false gods, raised up ‘the shrine of your king’. God will send them into exile.
‘He is the Lord, whose name is God Almighty.’

(‘as successive prophets spoke, it became clear that there would be a whole series of ‘days’ when God’s judgment and intervention would be seen. Such ‘day’s’ included the fall of Jerusalem, the return from exile, the coming of Christ, and the giving of the Holy Spirit. Each of these leads us closer to the final day when all things will be consummated (2 Thess. 1 v. 9, 10) – The Wesley Study Bible).

Abraham Is Justified By Faith –  Paul goes right back to Abraham to back up his argument. He quotes ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness’ (from Gen. 15 v. 6).
The argument is that if a man earns his wages, then they can’t be seen as gift, but obligation.
If, however, it’s not through works, but through trust, then ‘his faith is credited as righteousness’.
Paul also quotes Psalm 32, to show that David too knew how blessed he was to know the gracious forgiveness of sin (rather than by any works).
And to add weight to the argument that God favours neither the circumcised or uncircumcised, Abraham had righteousness credited to him BEFORE he was circumcised.
‘So, then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them.’
He is also the father of all who are circumcised, but ‘who walk in the footsteps of the faith’ Abraham exercised pre-circumcision.
Not through law, but through faith-righteousness, was it that Abraham received the promise to become heir of the world.
‘Where there is no law, there is no transgression’; again, the law points out the sin, but does not provide the antidote.

PSALM (one of David’s song)
My Lord, my God,

hear my prayer and answer me
be my guard – I devote my life to You
be my God – I put my trust in You
be merciful to me – I call out to You all day long
 be my joygiver – I lift up my soul to You
My Lord, my God.

You are forgiving, You are good
You are abounding in love, You delight to hear prayers for mercy
You answer when I cry out to You with my troubles

There is no god like You, my Lord, my God
There are no deeds to compare with Yours
Every nation will worship You
Everyone will glorify Your name
For You are great, and Your works are amazing,
You are the only true God,
My Lord, my God.

It is by faith, and faith in Christ alone….

29 12 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY SEVEN : Amos 3 v. 1 – 4 v. 13; Romans 3 v. 9 – 31; Psalm 85 v. 8 – 13

Witnesses Summoned Against Israel – This is ‘the word the Lord has spoken against you…the whole family’ of Israel.
– You only have I chosen….therefore I will punish you
– Observe two who have agreed to walk together, or a lion who has caught nothing, or a bird which has never known the sting of a trap (nothing happens without a cause)
‘Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing His plan to His servant the prophets’. The lion has roared…who can prophesy?
– God is rousing the forces of Ashdod and Egypt at Samaria, and says to Israel: ‘An enemy will overrun the land, pulling down your strongholds and plundering your fortresses’
– only a remnant of Israel will be saved (‘as a shepherd saves from the lion’s mouth only two leg bones or a piece of an ear’)
– God will punish Israel, destroying the altars at Bethel, tearing down both summer and winter houses, mansions will be demolished

God will destroy those things which cause Him greatest grief – altars dedicated to false gods, and extravagant luxury (especially when the poor are badly treated)

Israel Has Not Returned to God – God calls the cows of Bashan to hear His word (be His witness) – literally he calls the women who oppress the poor and crush the needy, greedy cows.
– the time will surely come when you will be caught by hooks, just like helpless fish
– you will be cast out towards Harmon
– God has seen how they go to Bethel and Gilgal, bringing sacrifices every morning, tithes every three years, boasting about the offerings they bring
– God allowed a shortage of food, but their empty stomachs did not turn them back to Him
– God withheld rain from certain fields, close to harvest, so that people struggled for water, but they did not turn back to Him
– God struck their vineyards with ‘blight and mildew’, locusts devouring fig and olive trees, but they did not turn back to Him
– God sent plagues (as He had in Egypt), and their soldiers fell to the sword, but they did not turn back to Him
– God overthrew some of them – ‘you were like a burning stick snatched from the fire’, but they did not turn back to Him
‘Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel…prepare to meet your God, O Israel’ – the very God who
~ made the mountains
~ crafted the wind
~ reveals His heart to humanity
~ turns daylight to dusk darkness
~ strides across the highest places on earth

God seeks to remind them of His power and ability, compared to the false Canaanite gods they worshipped in vain, and they are about to meet their maker !!

No-one is Righteous – No one ‘people’ is better than another : ‘Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin’
‘There is no-one righteous, not even one; there is no-one who understands, no-one who seeks God.’
Paul quotes from the Old Testament (mainly from the Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes) to show that no-one can work their way into a right relationship with God, even by seeking to fulfil the law.
Paul contends that the law exists to ‘make us conscious of sin’, but not to make us righteous. The law identifies the problem, but doesn’t provide the solution.

Righteousness Through Faith – ‘but now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known’ – through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
We are made right with God ‘through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe’.
‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus’.

Justified : is to be forgiven and accepted into a right relationship with God
Grace : shows that salvation is not because of our merits, but because of God’s love
Redemption : indicates the costliness of God’s love : it cost Him Jesus Christ to buy / bring about our deliverance

Jesus is an atoning sacrifice for our sins (‘through faith in His blood’). This is a demonstration of God’s justice, ‘so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus’.
None of us can boast then…not by our observing the law…it’s only by faith in Jesus.
God is the God of the Jews and the Gentiles alike. Both circumcised and uncircumcised will be justified through the same faith.
But this is no reason to nullify the law; rather, every urgency is encouraged to ‘uphold the law’.

I choose to listen out for the Lord
He pledges His peace to His holy ones
and will not let them turn back to foolish ways
My Lord, my God, Your saving grace is close by
to all who are in awe of You
and Your glory will inhabit our nation, our land.

In life, love and faith should be woven together,
right-living and peace should be bound as close as a kiss.
Faithfulness, spring up from the earth
Righteousness, observe us from heaven
My Lord, my God, grant us only Your goodness,
that our land will prosper.
Your righteousness is one step ahead of You
preparing Your path, Your way.

Walk the talk….

28 12 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY-SIX : Amos 1 v. 1 – 2 v. 16; Romans 2 v. 17 – 3 v. 8; Proverbs 17 v. 5 – 14

– a few introductory quotes from my Wesley Study Bible :
* Amos is generally considered to be the earliest of the writing prophets…preaching to the Northern Kingdom in the 8th century BC, when Jeroboam II was ruling.
* Amos’ moral sensibilities were shocked at the perversions of Israel’s worship that he observed in Bethel
* Jeroboam I had set up shrines at Bethel and Dan and erected golden bulls (1 Kings 12 v. 28). These pagan practices exercised a continual detrimental influence on the spiritual life of the northern kingdom
* Israel was experiencing great prosperity and international prestige…however, accompanied by an excessive pursuit of luxury, self-indulgence, and oppression of the poor by the rich
* This book stands as an eloquent witness against those who subordinate human need and dignity to the pursuit of wealth and pleasure

Introduction – Amos introduces himself as a shepherd from Tekoa (in Judah, southern kingdom, 12 miles south of Jerusalem), and claims he ‘saw’ things concerning Israel ‘two years before the earthquake’.
‘THE LORD ROARS FROM ZION AND THUNDERS FROM JERUSALEM’ (it’s not going to be a gentle message, then!)

Judgment on Israel’s Neighbours – Damascus (capital of Syria) gets the first blast, for its several sins (including threshing Gilead with iron-toothed sledges); God will send fire to consume fortresses, break down gates, and destroy the king.
Then Gaza gets it (the main city in Philistia), for taking captive whole communities, God will send fire to consume fortresses, and destroy the king, and all the Philistines.
Then Tyre (leading Phoenecian city) comes under God’s scrutiny, for selling people into slavery, God will send fire to devour the palaces.
Then Edom (south of Judah), condemned for its anger, and brutal sword-attacks, ‘stifling all compassion’, God will send fire to consume its fortresses.
Then Ammon (east of the Jordan), for its inhumanity to Gilead, God will send fire to consume fortresses, and send her king and officials into exile.
Then Moab (east of Jordan, south of Ammon), for burning Edom’s king’s bones (considered sacred), God will send fire to consume fortresses, and her rulers and officials will be killed.
Then Judah, for having rejected the law of the Lord, turning from His decrees, led astray by false gods, God will send fire to consume Jerusalem’s fortresses.

God is not happy about acts of inhumanity, nor about turning from His commands, nor about worshipping false gods

 Judgment on Israel – God then turns His attention to Israel, and He lists His complaints :
~ selling people (particularly the poor or the righteous) into slavery
~ ‘trampling on the heads of the poor, denying justice to the oppressed’
~ temple prostitution is rife

Notice how God’s complaints against the enemies of Israel were around how they had treated their ‘neighbours’, whereas Israel is condemned for the way it treats its own people…

The Jews and the Law – for the Jews, who rely on the law and brag about their relationship to God, knowing His will and instructed by the law, who see themselves as guides for the blind, a light for those in darkness, instructor, teacher…’do you not teach yourselves?’
The implication of Paul’s rhetorical questioning is that
– those who preach against stealing, steal
– those who warn people against adultery, practise adultery
– those who abhor idols, rob temples
– those who brag about the law, break it and dishonour God
In other words, they don’t practise what they preach ! (Do as I say, not as I do…)
What’s the point of being circumcised if you only go on to break the law?
Those who keep the law are those who are truly ‘circumcised’ (even if not actually circumcised)
It is not enough to be a Jew ‘outwardly’; ‘no, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit…’

Paul is beginning to expound the difference between the life which is ‘by the Spirit’ and the life which is ‘by the written code’ alone.

God’s Faithfulness – What advantage, then, in being a Jew, or being circumcised?
Well, firstly, in ‘having been entrusted with the very words of God’.
And a lack of faith does not nullify God’s faithfulness towards us.
Our unrighteousness cannot be used to condemn God as unrighteous.
Neither can we justify living unrighteously by saying it enhances God’s faithfulness – there are no ‘good’ motives for practising what God has judged to be ‘evil’.

‘He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker;
Children’s children are a crown to the aged…
He who covers over an offence promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.
If a man pays back evil with good, evil will never leave his house.
Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.’

Run, run, runaway Jonah…..

26 12 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY FIVE : Jonah 1 v. 1 – 4 v. 11; Romans 2 v. 1 – 16; Psalm 85 v. 1 – 7

Jonah Flees From the Lord – God calls Jonah to go to Ninevah to preach. Jonah runs away, headed in the opposite direction, boarding a ship at Joppa bound for Tarshish. He pays his way to flee from God’s call.
God sends a violent storm which could easily have destroyed that ship. Everyone on board cried out ‘to his own god’, and cargo was thrown overboard to ease the burden on the ship.
Jonah, meanwhile, is fast asleep below deck. The captain wakens him and urges him to pray to his god. ‘Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish’.
When the sailors cast lots, Jonah is ‘chosen’ as the one responsible for their perilous situation. They ask him to tell them who he is and where he’s from.
‘I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land’.
They know he’s running away from God, so they ask what they should do to make the sea calm down. Jonah suggests they throw him overboard. At first, the sailors ignored him, and tried to sail back to shore. In the end, they throw Jonah overboard, praying that the Lord does not hold them accountable for ‘killing an innocent man’.
As soon as they threw him overboard, the ‘raging sea grew calm’. The sailors are in awe and sacrifice to the Lord.
‘But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.’

There’s a similar story of Jesus asleep on a boat in the middle of a fierce storm – when the disciples wake Him, He commands the wind and the waves to ‘be quiet’, and the storm ceases. Same outcome, in that the storm ceased, but different outcomes for Jonah / Jesus ! 

Jonah’s Prayer – Inside the whale, Jonah prays :
~ God answers the prayer of the distressed
~ Jonah acknowledges that it is God who has ‘hurled me into the deep’
~ although Jonah feels ‘banished from God’s sight’, he knows he will see the holy temple once again (prayer of faith)
~ although Jonah was drowning, wrapped with seaweed, God remembered him, and rescued him (the great fish is the vehicle of God’s rescue)
~ Jonah sees that those who put their faith in ‘worthless idols’ do themselves out of the grace which they could and should know from God
~ ‘But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to You. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.’

I think God had heard enough by now, and commanded the fish to vomit Jonah onto dry land. Yeuch !!!

Jonah Goes to Ninevah – Jonah hears God call him a second time to go to Ninevah (the call remains the same – Jonah has a second chance to respond!).
This time, Jonah obeys and goes to Ninevah. It was a significant city to visit – a three day visit might just get you round everything / everyone in Ninevah.
DAY ONE : Jonah went into the city and told them what God had said – forty days and then Ninevah will be destroyed.
‘The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them…put on sackcloth’.
Even the king took off his robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in the dust, and he sent out a proclamation throughout Ninevah, urging a fast, and repentance (sackcloth etc.).
‘Let everyone call urgently upon God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence…God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.’
So, God did show compassion, when the people turned from their wicked ways, and Ninevah was spared the destruction which had been threatened.

Jonah’s Anger at the Lord’s Compassion – Jonah is angry with God, and prays angrily
~ this is just what I feared You would do, God !
~ I fled to Tarshish because I knew You would relent and not send calamity on Ninevah.
~ ‘I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love’.
~ I’d rather die than live to see Ninevah spared….
God questions Jonah’s ‘right to be angry’, but Jonah goes out of the city and has a major sulk, sitting under a shelter he put together.
God provided a vine, which grew up over Jonah, offering him shade.
‘Jonah was very happy about the vine’; however, in the morning God provided a worm which caused the vine to wither, and the sun beat down on Jonah. Jonah repeats his request to God that it would be preferable to die.
God questions Jonah’s ‘right to be angry’ about the vine. Jonah says he absolutely does have the right to be angry enough to die!
God points out that Jonah was upset about a vine which grew up one day and withered the next, whereas Ninevah had more than 120,00 people living in it (not to mention the cattle!); so, then, the book of Jonah ends with God asking him a question,
‘Should I not be concerned about that great city?’

God is keen to teach Jonah compassion…He is keen to do the same for us, too…to see things as God does, to live with His perspective.

God’s Righteous Judgment – Judging others is akin to judging ourselves, since all are guilty of sin, whereas God’s judgement is based on truth. People are stubborn and have unrepentant hearts (v.5), and therefore store up God’s wrath and judgement.
‘To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, He will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.’
and God does not show favouritism when it comes to Jew or Gentile – all will get what their life on earth deserves.
‘It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but those who obey the law who will be declared righteous’.
Paul reminds his readers that there will be a judgement day – ‘when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ…‘.

Paul is building up his argument that trying to live by the law is ultimately fruitless, unless we have the righteousness through Jesus Christ.

A song by the Sons of Korah

My Lord, my God, You have poured Your blessings on Your land,
bring Jacob’s land back to its former glory.
Forgiving Your people, You have dealt with their sin.

(pause for a while to reflect)

You subdued Your anger, turned from Your wrath.

My Lord, my God, our Saviour, build us up again.
Turn from being displeased with us
to restore all that we have lost.
Enough of Your anger – it can’t go on forever and ever –
revive us, restore us,
so that we may for ever rejoice in You.
Make us aware, once again, of Your unfailing love.
Rescue us, save us, renew us.

The End of the Kings !

23 12 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY FOUR : 2 Kings 24 v. 8 – 25 v. 30; Romans 1 v. 18 – 32; Psalm 84 v. 8 – 12

Babylonian tablet chronicling the capture of Jerusalem in 597BC

Jehoiachin King of Judah – Jehoiachin is 18 when he becomes king and he rules for three months ! His mother, Nehushta, was a Jerusalemite. ‘He did evil in the eyes of the Lord…’
Nebuchadnezzar’s officers laid siege to Jerusalem, the king himself coming up to the city for the fight.
King Jehoiachin and all his officials (and his mother) surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar.
Nebuchadnezzar was in his eighth year as king, and he did as had been prophesied – he took all the treasures from the temple and the palace, all the gold which originated from Solomon’s reign. All Jerusalem was carried into exile – 10,000 people. ‘Only the poorest of the people were left’.
Jehoiachin was taken captive to Babylon, with his mother and his wives, and officials. Nebuchadnezzar put Jehoiachin’s uncle Mattaniah in charge of Jerusalem as king, changing his name to Zedekiah.

Zedekiah King of Judah – Zedekiah was 21 when he was made king, and he reigned for eleven years. ‘He did evil in the eyes of the Lord’, and because of this the Lord, in His anger, allowed destruction to come to Jerusalem and Judah, ‘and in the end He thrust them from His presence.

The Fall of Jerusalem – Zedekiah rebels against Babylon, so king Nebuchanezzar of Babylon marches against Jerusalem, encamping outside the city and besieging it, for around two years (from 9th to 11th year of Zedekiah’s reign). The city experienced a great famine. The army inside the city break the wall (near the king’s garden) and flee towards the Arabah. The Babylonian army pursue them, overtaking them in the Jordan plains. King Zedekiah is captured and is taken to Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah. Zedekiah’s sons are killed, and his own eyes are gouged out, and he is taken captive to Babylon.
‘On the seventh day of the fifth month in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign in Babylon’, the king’s commander, Nebuzaradan entered Jerusalem. He burned down the temple, the palace and every house in Jerusalem. The walls around Jerusalem were torn down. Most of the people left were taken into exile, except a few of the poorest people ‘to work the vineyards and fields’.
The bronze from the temple (pillars, stands and Sea) is broken up and taken to Babylon, as well as all the artifacts, gold, silver, pottery.
The bronze weighed a huge amount (‘more than could be weighed’), and represented all that Solomon had invested in this temple.
The chief priest – Seraiah – and the next in rank – Zephaniah – and the doorkeepers were taken as prisoners. Various other officials who had remained in Jerusalem were taken captive too. Once in Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar had them executed.
‘So Judah went into captivity, away from her land’.
Gedaliah is appointed to rule over the people left in Judah. The people came to Gedaliah at Mizpah, and he reassured them:
‘Do not be afraid of the Babylonian officials…settle down in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it will go well with you.’
Seven months in, however, Ishmael (‘who was of royal blood’) rose up and killed Gedaliah, and the Judeans and Babylonians who were with him. Then they fled to Egypt for fear of the Babylonians.

So at the end of the period of the ‘kings’, the people of God who had been rescued from Egypt, find themselves fleeing to Egypt, vacating the promised land.
Sad reversal of all that God had promised and provided.

Jehoiachin Released – Remember Jehoiachin ? He had surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 24. Well, 37 years later, when Evil-Merodach (Nebuchadnezzar’s son) became king of Babylon, Jehoiachin is released. He is spoken kindly to and given a seat of honour ‘higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon’.
‘So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table….the king gave Jehoiachin a daily allowance as long as he lived.’

My study bible states :
‘The books of Kings end on the hopeful assertion that a ‘son of David’ was alive and well. Whatever the human motives behind Jehoiachin’s release, God’s decree was that the family of David, though severely chastened, would not be exterminated. Though humans break their covenant, God keeps His.’

God’s Wrath Against Mankind – Paul contends that you only have to look around you to see that God is angry with the ‘godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth’.
‘For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse’.
He contends that God is easily ‘known’, yet never glorified or thanked by these foolish souls, who even substitute the glory of God for the folly of images of men, birds, animals and reptiles.
Left to their own devices, then, God watches as sexual sins, lies and false worship take them over; women and men give in to ‘shameful lusts’; women with women, men with men.
Their minds, also, wandered into perversions – ‘evil, greed and depravity…envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice…gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful…disobeying parents…senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless’ (wow, that’s quite a depressing list !!).
Paul argues that though people know these things are wrong, they are done, nonetheless, and those who do them are applauded !

I find it worth pondering just how easily ‘knowable’ God is – there is the promise that all who seek Him will find Him – but how true is it that since the beginning ‘God’s invisible qualities have been clearly seen’. Easy to say with the eyes of faith.
It is easy, though, for me to see how depraved human nature can become ‘left to its own devices’. In that sense, God leaves humanity to its own end…..or does He? Roll on the Incarnation, Emmanuel : GOD WITH US !

‘My Lord, my God, hear me out –
Listen to my words, God of Jacob.

(pause for silent reflection)

Examine our defenses, and look favourably
upon Your chosen, anointed one.
I’d rather have one day in the court of Your presence
than one thousand anywhere else.
I’d rather hold the door for people coming into Your house
than abide in the tents of evil people.

My Lord, my God,
 You are my sun and shield, brightness and defense.
You dish out blessings and honour,
Showering Your goodness upon all who walk in Your ways, faultless in Your sight.
My Lord, my God,
Almighty One,
True blessing and contentment comes when we
put our whole trust in You.’

Not ashamed of the gospel…

3 12 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY-THREE : 2 Kings 23 v. 1 – 24 v. 7; Romans 1 v. 1 – 17; Psalm 84 v.1 – 7

Josiah Renews the Covenant
– the king calls all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem together at the temple – the least and the greatest gathered there.
The words of the Book of the Covenant are read to all the people.
‘The King stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord – to follow the Lord and keep His commands…with all his heart and all his soul…then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.’
The priests are ordered to remove the Baal and Asherah articles from the temple, and to burn them in the Kidron Valley (outside Jerusalem).
The pagan priests are ‘done away with’; the quarters of the male shrine prostitutes are torn down.
Josiah arranged for all the high places to be desecrated, breaking down shrines at the gates (incl. Joshua gate).
He desecrated Topheth, so ‘no-one could sacrifice his son or daughter in the fire to Molech’.
‘He removed from the entrance to the temple of the Lord the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun’.
Chariots dedicated to the sun are burned; altars built to other gods, within the temple, are pulled down and thrown into the Kidron Valley.
Many high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles were destroyed.
The altar at Bethel, also, is destroyed. Tombs on the hillside at Bethel had the bones removed, and the altar is desecrated by having those bones burned on it – all except the tombs of the ‘man of God who came from Judah and pronounced against the altar of Bethel…‘ and the prophet from Samaria – their tombs were left untouched.
Also, the high places in the towns of Samaria were removed and defiled. Priests were slaughtered and human bones were burned on the shrine altars.

After all this cleasing, Josiah returned to Jerusalem and called for the Passover to be celebrated (it had been a long time since the nation had celebrated Passover – not since the judges had ruled over the nation).

Josiah got rid of mediums, spiritists, household gods, idols etc. throughout Judah and Jerusalem.
‘He did this to fulfil the requirements of the law written in the book that Hilkiah the priest had discovered in the temple of the Lord.’
Josiah ‘was a king who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.’
God still had anger towards the wrong Manasseh had done throughout Judah, and continued to say He was going to remove Judah from His presence, rejecting Jerusalem and the temple ‘about which I said, ‘There shall my Name be’.’
All Josiah’s deeds are recorded in the annals of the kings of Judah.

In one episode, Josiah stood against the armies of Assyria and Egypt who had joined forces. Josiah was killed by Pharaoh Neco at Megiddo, and his body was taken to Jerusalem, to his own tomb. Josiah’s son, Jehoahaz, is anointed as the new king.

Jehoahaz King of Judah – Jehoahaz becomes king when he is 23 years old. He reigns for just three months. He ‘did evil in the eyes of the Lord’. He was put in chains by Pharaoh Neco, and a tax levy was placed on Judah (100 talents of silver, one of gold). In his place, Pharaoh Neco made Eliakim (Josiah’s son) the new king. Eliakim’s name is changed to Jehoiakim, and he pays the levy by imposing a tax on the land, taking the money from the people of Judah.
Jehoahaz dies in Egypt.

Jehoiakim King of Judah – At twenty-five years old, Jehoiakim becomes king, and he reigns for eleven years. He is the son of Zebidah, from Rumah. Jehoiakim also does evil in the eyes of the Lord. During his reign, Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar attacks the land and for three years Jehoiakim becomes his vassal; then he turns against Nebuchadnezzar, and finds himself fighting against Babylonians, Arameans, Moabites and Ammonites, who were all seeking to destroy Judah, in accordance with prophetic words which had been spoken.
All this is seen to be the result of Manasseh’s disobedience – shedding innocent blood….‘and the Lord was not willing to forgive’.
Jehoiakim’s deeds are all written in the annals of the kings of Judah. He dies and is buried along with his fathers; his son, Jehoiachin succeeds him.
Egypt no longer encroached on Judaean territory, as the Babylonians had themselves taken it.


Introduction – It’s always fascinating to hear how someone introduces themselves.
Paul describes himself as being
– a servant of Christ Jesus
– called to be an apostle (sent-one, commissioned, church-planter)
– set apart for the gospel of God (the gospel of Jesus having been promised through the prophets)
Paul describes Jesus as being
– as to his human nature, a descendant of David
– through the Spirit of holiness, declared with power to be the Son of God, by His resurrection from the dead
Paul describes his mission / calling as
– having received grace and apostleship
– ‘to call people from among all the gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith’
– the Romans are among those called to belong to Jesus
– to share the grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus

Paul’s Longing to Visit Rome –

the faith of the Roman Christians is reported to Paul, and ‘all over the world’, so Paul gives thanks. As Paul serves God ‘with his whole heart’, preaching, and remembering in prayer ‘at all times’ the Roman Christians, he expresses his longing to visit them.
His desire to see them is to impart ‘some spiritual gift to make you strong’ – a gift of encouragement (lit. ‘to strengthen one another’), in sharing faith together.
Paul senses that he has been prevented from making that journey to see them, many times, as he longs to have a ‘harvest among you, just as I have had among other Gentiles’.
Paul has a calling to both Greeks and non-Greeks; wise and foolish.
‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.’ (Jew and Gentile)
A righteousness which begins and ends by faith (first to last).
‘The righteous will live by faith’

Musical director’s notes : to be played on the gittith.
A song from Korah’s sons.

‘The place where You abide, my Lord, my God, is beautiful.
My whole being longs to be within its walls.
My heart cries out, my flesh desires nothing more than to be with You,
Living God.

Sparrows have a home
Swallows have a nest for their young
right alongside Your altar
my Lord, my God.
True, blessed happiness is found in Your presence,
at home in Your home,
praising You endlessly.

True happiness accompanies those who trust in Your strength,
who seek t0 journey with You.
Pilgrims through barren valleys, bringing springwater, autumnal rains.
Onwards and upwards, not losing, but gaining strength with every step.
Journeying on to God, to the Holy City (Zion).’