Thinking Right About God!

-The Most Important Thing About You?

What comes to your mind if I ask you:  “What is the #1 most important thing about you?” Ponder that a moment! What is the #1 most important thing about you? Here it is:  “What comes into your mind when you think about God is the #1 most important thing about you.” The heaviest question, in front of us, is always about God Himself! And, our current pluralistic, relativistic, narcissistic, politically correct “culture” shows little to no regard for the accuracy & truth of the God impressions we have floating around in our little self-absorbed minds! “You’re OK & I’m OK” as long as you don’t tell me that Jesus is the ONLY WAY to God! “Whatever you believe about God is OK as long as you VALIDATE what I believe about Him.”  “You have your truth & I have mine.” Those are ultimately idolatrous statements, aren’t they? Any belief about God that is twisted or inaccurate is “idolatry”—they’ve made up their own god in their own image!

-God Has Left The Building!

I love what A.W. Tozer said many years ago before the world was even close to being as religiously inclusivist as it is today:  “The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.”  And, listen church, the trickle-down from the cultural idolatry & false thinking, about God, is so pervasive in our civilization that it’s made inroads into the church! In most of our mainline denominations, God has “left the building”; because, “the essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.” A.W. Tozer said that too! That’s the post-modern world that we live in, isn’t it? There are no “absolutes” in the world of 2021; and, it’s sad the depths, of foolishness, an unregenerate & hopelessly lost world will go to silence that inner voice of God’s Holy Spirit.

-God Is Not Silent!

Listen, God is not silent! He has not created this place; and, then went off to some corner of the universe to hide out & see what happens! God is alive & well; and, the rumors of His death have been greatly exaggerated! God’s Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to pen these words, in his letter to the Church of Rome. He says the unbelieving world will suppress the truth, “Because what may be known of God is manifest in them (It’s INNATE), for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God…” Romans 1:19-21.  Scripture insists that everyone knows there’s a God! There is an “internal witness” or evidence! It’s innate! Everyone, in their heart, knows there is a God! They simply suppress the truth! And, there’s also the “external witness”; or, the evidence of creation, Paul says, in this passage from Romans.

Truth Suppressers!

The unbeliever, who refuses to humble himself & admit he can’t know everything there is to know about an eternal God, rejects Him & suppresses the truth about Him! He comes up with all sorts of theories that masquerade as science; but, they’re all lies. So, the answer to the #1 most important thing about you? It’s what comes into your mind when you think about God! And, the consequences, about your thoughts of God, will impact both the quality of your life here & for eternity! Your life will prove to be successful as you pursue the wisdom of God; and, reject the seductive distractions of the world. That requires a leap of faith—not a BLIND leap of faith; because, God has buried evidence of Himself, inside you! The “internal” evidence! And, He’s also left His fingerprints all over the created world & universe! The “external” evidence! So, how do we think rightly about God? Where do we start? We’ll get into that next post!

You Want To Be Happy?

-It Begins With Your Relationship With God!

So, we’ve spent the last few posts talking about being happy! And, about what that looks like through the grid of Scripture! According to Psalm 1, God’s word says that your level of happiness is directly related to the depth of relationship you have with Him! Let’s look a little deeper at that Psalm! The writer, inspired by God’s Spirit to write these exact words, says that your happiness also depends on what you meditate on! It says in v.2, “…his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.” The happy person is happy, in part, because he meditates on God’s word at all times throughout his day!

-Meditating On God’s Word!

In the original language, that word we have translated “meditate” means to speak or to mutter! So, the writer says that meditating on God’s word means that you speak to yourself; or, you mutter the words of God to yourself all day! You wanna be happy? You find happiness when you chew on the word of God! When you speak & mutter the word of God to yourself day & night! There is no end to the applications we can make from God’s word! His word is eternal in its depth of wisdom! It’s impossible to plumb the depths of it in this lifetime. 

-The Fruit Of Your Life!

The writer of this Psalm also gives us one more significant point to mull! Your happiness, he says, depends on the fruit your life bears! He sums it all up here! The person who rejects the advice of the world; who delights in God’s Word; and, who meditates on it day and night, “…is like a tree planted beside streams of water that bears its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers” (v.3).  Every life bears fruit! In this Psalm, the writer points to 2 different kinds of people who have 2 different ways to live their lives; and, who bear 2 different types of fruit! So, choose wisely who you listen to!

-Two Different Kinds Of Fruit!

The Apostle Paul picks up on this theme in his church letter to the Galatian believers. He writes that one way produces the fruit of the flesh:  “… sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these” (Galatians 5: 19-21).  While the other way produces the fruit of the Holy Spirit:  “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).  The Psalmist concludes with the end; or, the resulting fruit from the 2 different ways to live your life:  “…the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:5,6).

-Judgment Day Is Coming!

In this life, the way of the righteous & the way of the wicked may appear to run parallel! The way of the wicked often looks pleasant & fun! But, there is coming a judgment; a day of reckoning when those who took their advice & counsel from God’s word; and, delighted in it; and, meditated on it, will be gathered into a glorious congregation around the Throne of God! Forever they’ll enjoy eternal happiness! While, the wicked will face the Great Judge of all the earth; who will give them what they always wanted—an eternity without God! The Lord watches over you if the advice you follow & the things you take delight in & the content of your meditation bear the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit! If you don’t have this, you need help! Jesus said: “You will know the truth & the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). That delivers happiness!

The Return Of The Exiles

-The Life Of A Refugee!

We see the pictures on the nightly news or our online news sources; and, though pictures may be worth a thousand words, they can never adequately portray what it’s like to be exiled from your native land & to flee as a refugee to a foreign nation! The stories are horrific! The greatest fear, as a parent, is to be separated from your children in such a setting; although, in some cases, where the conditions are brutal enough, parents willingly hand off their children to someone else with the hope that they might survive & have a better life! Most of us, living in this country, simply have no point of reference or experience to draw on when it comes to living like an exile or a refugee!

-Israel’s Refugees From Babylon!

And, while some of the world’s current refugee crisis has similarities to the time of Israel’s exile— as recorded at the end of 2 Chronicles— there are many differences! The majority of exiles today are leaving war-torn nations by their own will, seeking refuge in a safe, neighboring country. Israel’s exile occurred against their own will when, the foreign nations of Assyria; and, then Babylon, swept in like a flood & plundered their homeland; and, then exiled them off to serve as slaves! For Israel, their exile was the more bitter because they had no one to blame but themselves.

-Israel Broke Covenant!

God had covenanted with them to bless them in the land—that He gave them—if they would obey Him & keep His commandments! But, He had also promised a curse if they broke covenant with Him; and, that’s exactly what they did! They abandoned Yahweh & chased after other gods; until, finally, Yahweh abandoned them! The 137th Psalm was written as a lament by those who endured the exile, the slavery & the human trafficking in that day:  “By the rivers of Babylon,” they cried, “there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion. There we hung up our lyres on the poplar trees, for our captors there asked us for songs, and our tormentors, for rejoicing:  ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’ they mocked.  “How can we sing the Lord’s song on foreign soil?” That’s how the book of 2 Chronicles ends!

-Exiled To Babylon!

It reads that King Nebuchadnezzar, of Babylon, “…deported those who escaped from the sword to Babylon, and they became servants to him and his sons until the rise of the Persian kingdom. This fulfilled the word of the Lord through Jeremiah and the land enjoyed its Sabbath rest all the days of the desolation until 70 years were fulfilled” 2 Chronicles 36:20-21.  So, Israel was exiled to Babylon for 70 years; and, God’s prophecy, through Jeremiah, was fulfilled. It was during those 70 years that the Medo-Persian empire overpowered Babylon!

-The Lord Put It In His Mind!

From there, the book of Ezra picks up the story of the exiles:  “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, the word of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The Lord put it into the mind of King Cyrus to issue a proclamation throughout his entire kingdom and to put it in writing” Ezra 1:1. That verse includes 2 significant details! First, that Jeremiah’s prophecy, of a 70-year exile, was completed in the first year of King Cyrus’ reign in Persia! And, second, that it was God who “…put it into the mind…” of Cyrus to issue a proclamation! I would encourage you to make a note in your Bible, right there, that says, “Here is an example of God’s Sovereignty over the world.”  Cyrus wasn’t in control! Persia wasn’t in control either! God was directing traffic here! He put it in Cyrus’ mind to issue the proclamation we’ll look at next week!

A Heart Devoted To God!

-Qualities Of A Good King!

In my last post I talked about the Old Testament descriptions of kings who were said to be either “good” or “evil.” Either they did that which was “good” in the sight of God; or, they did that which was “evil.” We talked, at length, about King Jehoshaphat; and, some of the reasons he was said to be a “good” king! In today’s post, I want to continue pointing out some of the qualities that made him a “good” king! The Scriptures also claim that he was good; because, his heart was devoted to the Lord— ”His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord…” 2 Chronicles 17:6.  That literally means that his heart was “devoted” to the LORD! Above every other thing, in his life, he was COURAGEOUS in his devotion to the ways of the LORD!

-Jesus: 1st Place In Everything!

The Apostle Paul wrote the Church of Corinth about where Jesus needs to fit in our live:  “He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything” Col 1:17-18. We need to be devoted to Jesus in the same way that King Jehoshaphat was devoted to the LORD! 1st PLACE in everything! We need to be honest about this, Church! We give a lot of lip service to Jesus having 1st PLACE in our life; but, does He have 1st PLACE in our lives when it comes to reading the Scriptures every day? Or, does that only happen if you can find time to squeeze it in? If He has 1st PLACE you’ll make reading Scripture to be PRIME TIME in your day! Does He have 1st PLACE in your Sunday morning when it comes to gathering for worship with the rest of your faith community? Are you ready to worship at the start of that service? What about the Sunday School hour? Does He have 1st PLACE during that time slot in your week? Are your kids getting the Bible training during the Sunday School hour that they so desperately need?

-Have You Been Lying To Yourself?

Does He really have 1st PLACE? Or, have you just been lying to yourself? We need to get real with ourselves, Church! We need to get real with God! We need to get real with each other! We need to identify the idols that are pushing Jesus out of that 1st PLACE position in every part of our lives! King Jehoshaphat’s devotion to God was so deep and true that he longed to know God through His Word! In 2 Chronicles, chapter 18, there’s an incident where he had interaction with King Ahab.

-He Sought His Father’s God!

Now, King Ahab was classified by God, in Scripture, as an “evil” king in Israel! And, when he showed interest only in what the false prophets of Baal had to say about a situation, Jehoshaphat insisted on hearing the Word of God from Micaiah, the prophet of Yahweh. And, that was the pattern of King Jehoshaphat’s life! Though he failed to always keep God’s Word, he had an affinity for it! He loved it! So, again, he provides us with another great example to follow. If you don’t long to know God’s Word; if, you’re not hungry for it, you’re not in a good place spiritually! You need to pray for God’s Spirit to help you! What made King Jehoshaphat a good king? Well, his story clearly reveals that he wasn’t a perfect man! He sinned! He was guilty of indiscretions. Not all of his decisions were wise ones! But, God called him a good king because he humbly repented when he was faced with his sin! The world needs men like King Jehoshaphat!

Thank You God For Pain!

-Enslaved By Our Idols!

Did you know that God will allow our idols to enslave us in order to drive us back to Himself? It’s true! In the Old Testament book of Judges, it says that God, “…sold Israel to their enemies around them, and they could no longer resist their enemies. Whenever the Israelites went out, the Lord was against them and brought disaster on them, just as He had promised and sworn to them. So they suffered greatly” (2:14).  You may find that disturbing that “…the Lord was against them”; and, that He “…brought disaster on them.” Or, perhaps you can relate! Have you ever felt like God was against you & that He was bringing disaster into your life? Well, He might be! But, if He is, it’s only temporary & He means to use the disaster to encourage you to repent, over your sin, and return to the Lord!

-All Idols Are Frauds!

That’s what He did with Israel! He meant to show them that their idols were all frauds! That the idols that they bowed down to would never satisfy or deliver them! Only God can satisfy and deliver! We see the pattern in the next chapter of Judges:  “The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord’s sight; they forgot the Lord their God and worshiped the Baals and the Asherahs. The Lord’s anger burned against Israel, and He sold them to Cushan-rishathaim…” (3:7).  When their idols failed to deliver, v.9 says, “Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord. So the Lord raised up Othniel…as a deliverer to save the Israelites.”  So, from an application standpoint, we need to look at pain & struggles differently!

-Ask God To Reveal Your Idols!

Some times, we need to thank God for pain! When you’re facing difficulties, in life, ask God to reveal any idols that you may be depending on— money, health, education, leisure, etc.— and, confess it as sin if you’re guilty! And, then, turn back to the Lord! It’s His goodness that leads us to repentance! Otherwise, when we fail to repent, God’s absence from His rightful place in our life can lead to shocking moral depravity! There’s a story, in Judges 19-21, that is one of the most unbelievable in all of Scripture.  A Levite, who was supposed to be a religious leader in Israel, has a concubine! Do you know what a concubine is? She’s someone who voluntarily enslaves & sells herself to a man primarily for sexual pleasure— kind of a “friend with benefits” as has been popularized in our own immoral culture! So this Levite has broken some of the clear commands that God had given Israel, through Moses, way before they even entered Canaan land. The concubine didn’t have an equal status as a wife; so, when she got angry, with her situation, she left the Levite & went home to her parents. After awhile, he goes to see her, they make up and return home!

-Shocking Moral Depravity!

On the way home, they spend the night in an Israelite city. The text says, “…perverted men of the city surrounded the house…and demanded of the owner that he, ‘Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him” (19:22). When they couldn’t  have the Levite, they took his concubine, raped & abused her all night, leaving her for dead! So, the Levite took her home, cut her up into 12 pieces & sent her body parts throughout the 12 territories of Israel! Shocking, right? I can’t even come up with an English word that adequately describes that story! God doesn’t sugar-coat the atrocities that sinful men are capable of! God’s absence from our lives; or, from the conscience of a nation, can lead to shocking moral depravity. Let’s learn to be thankful when God interrupts our sin with some pain to get our attention! And, then, let’s confess our idols as sin and repent!

The Moral Relativism Problem!

Doing What’s Best In Your Own Eyes!

The deadliest accident in aviation history occurred on March 27, 1977, when 2 Boeing 747 passenger jets collided on the runway of Tenerife North Airport on Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands. There were 583 total fatalities. The crash left behind many unanswered questions. It was a foggy day; and, the pilots, of the 2 planes, could not see each other. But, for some inexplicable reason, one of the pilots began his takeoff without clearance from the control tower. The other plane was in the way & he was unable to avoid it; so, 583 people died! Every pilot is taught one very basic lesson at the beginning of their training— in an air traffic control zone, you NEVER do what seems best in your own eyes! You always do what the control tower tells you to do.

-Acting On Your Own Can Be Disastrous!

The reason is simple & obvious— the controller knows things you can’t possible know or see. They have more accurate information & a better perspective to guide the plane safely to its destination. Acting on your own can be disastrous! While that seems like an obvious principle for aviation, it ought to be an equally obvious principle for living out your life. Our Creator God ought to be our control tower! Unfortunately, we live in dark times. Our country & the world appear to be stuck in a dark moral vacuum where no one seems to believe that there are moral absolutes of right and wrong anymore. People are committed to a philosophy of “moral relativism”; which, simply means everyone does that which is right in their own eyes. 

-Losing Your Spiritual Compass!

The Old Testament book of Judges offers us a vivid picture of what happens when a society does what’s right in their own eyes & it reads like the daily paper or nightly news in our own country.  Judges unpacks the story of a spiritually deteriorating nation; and, provides us an example of what our own lives will become if we fall away from God’s Word & lose our spiritual compass. Look at how the book begins:  “The people worshiped the Lord throughout Joshua’s lifetime and during the lifetimes of the elders who outlived Joshua… after them another generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works He had done for Israel. The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. They worshiped the Baals and abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers… they went after other gods from the surrounding peoples and bowed down to them. They infuriated the Lord” Judges 2:7-14.

-The Beginnings Of Apostasy!

For Israel, the apostasy began slowly as it always does! Sin always seems harmless when we’re just looking at something that’s enticing; but, the look leads to partaking; and, then a commitment to hiding the sin! To wearing a mask & pretending we’re not guilty! Sin’s most effective strategy against us is to gradually introduce small compromises, sinking us into moral collapse. I had a Bible College professor who used to say, “You don’t just wake up one day & say, ‘Hey, I’m gonna kill somebody today!’ You don’t just wake up one day & say, ‘Hey, I’m gonna sleep with someone I’m not married to.’” Sin takes over gradually. A small compromise here & a bit more there! Before Achan coveted & stole he began to calculate the possibility of how he could get away with it (Joshua 7). The compromise began in his heart; and, it was gradual. He failed to take those 1st thoughts captive & denounce them; and, because he didn’t control them, they eventually controlled him! Let the sin take control & then you begin to justify it! That’s the sin talking!

Leadership Principles!

-Preparing Joshua To Lead!

In my last post, I introduced you to the Old Testament ministry team of Moses and Joshua. We talked about how Moses invested himself in training Joshua to succeed him in leading the nation of Israel into the land God had promised them. Today, I plan to share a few leadership principles that Moses passed on to Joshua— some intentionally, some not! Each of these prepared Joshua to lead; and, I hope that in each principle, you’ll also find that it applies directly & personally to you.

-Don’t Mess With God!

From Moses, Joshua learned that God will not tolerate the rebellion of men against Himself. In Exodus 17, Joshua observed how the Amalekites attacked Israel. Their attack was a rebellion against God’s right to rule over all of HIS worlds! As Creator, God had the right to remove the Amalekites from the land they occupied because of their rebellion; and, give it to other people. The principle Joshua learned? Don’t mess with God! There’s another leadership principle that Joshua learned, from Moses, in this very same battle against the Amalekites. He learned that God is the power behind the leader and the sword!

-The Power Behind The Leader!

As Israel’s General, Joshua led Israel on the battlefield; while Moses, Israel’s preeminent earthly leader, intervened spiritually at the top of a hill.  As long as he kept his hands raised toward heaven— symbolizing Israel’s dependence on God— Israel prevailed in the battle. But, when his hands dropped the Amalekites would gain ground. Interestingly, after Israel defeated Amalek the Lord told Moses to, “…write this down for a memorial in the book as a reminder & RECITE IT TO JOSHUA” Exodus 17:14.  Do you see the significance? It was God who delivered Israel! He was the power! It wasn’t General Joshua or Moses! It was God who fought for Israel; and, Moses needed to rehearse that with Joshua!

-God Delivers Victory!

Can we apply that to our church faith community? I’m pretty sure we can! Did Israel have to fight? Yes! Did Joshua have to lead bravely & courageously? Yes! But, when it was all over, God was the One who delivered the victory! If we desire to see God work in our city; if we want to see people disciples & our church grow, we have to put in the work & effort! But, it only happens when God does it! Like Moses, with hands lifted toward heaven, we have to pray & seek God’s help even as we do our part & work! But, there was another principle that Moses clearly wanted Joshua to learn.

-Seeking God’s Glory!

In Exodus 24, when Moses went to the top of Mount Sinai to meet with God, it says, “So Moses arose with his assistant (or APPRENTICE) Joshua and went up the mountain of God” where v.17 says they saw, “…the appearance of the LORD’S GLORY.” And, in his training with Moses, before the Lord’s Glory, he came to understand that God’s Glory must always be sought rather than one’s own personal accomplishments. As church leaders, God’s Glory must always be our passion; not, personal accolades or attention. Joshua learned another valuable leadership principle (Exodus 32) from Moses as they came down from Mt Sinai, carrying God’s 10 Commandments. As they came into the camp; and, observed Israel’s idolatrous activity worshipping a golden calf, Joshua watched Moses’ righteous indignation toward their sin! He learned the principle that God blesses leaders who love what He loves & hate what He hates! Godly leaders hate sin!

 

Are You Happy Now?

-Obedience Makes Us Happy!

One reason God condemns sin is that it brings us pain! He hates sin because of what it does to us! That’s why He gave Israel the 10 Commandments & the rest of the law! So, they could be happy! So that they could avoid all the pain & the diseases that the other nations, who rejected Yahweh & followed idols, suffered with! You will never be happier than when you’re living in right relationship with God & with your neighbor! That’s why we need to read & meditate on His word! That’s why we need to memorize it! So you’ll know when you’ve stumbled out of fellowship with God & with others! So, you can resolve it!

-Who’s Happy?

Listen to what the psalmist said in Psalm ch.1:  “How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. He is like a tree planted beside streams of water that bears its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” Who’s happy? The one who doesn’t follow the advice of the world! Who’s happy? The one who avoids the path of those who disobey God’s Word! Who’s happy? The one who doesn’t hang out with those who mock God’s law! The mocker says:  “What, you’re going to wait until you get married before you have sex or live with that person? That’s stupid! What if you’re not compatible?” That’s the mocker’s advice! And, it doesn’t work! That counsel is ruining lives & ruining marriages! It automatically builds mistrust in the relationship!

-How To Be Prosperous!

Instead, the psalmist says that it’s the one who delights in the Lord’s instruction that will prosper! It’s the couple who ignores their worldly friend’s advice whose marriage will prosper! It’s the one who is in God’s word & structures their life accordingly that will prosper! Over & over, in the Old Testament, God told Israel that it was their sin that separated them from a relationship with Him! He was holy and they were not! The Prophet Isaiah told Israel:  “But your iniquities have built barriers between you and your God, and your sins have made Him hide His face from you so that He does not listen” Isaiah 59:2.  We can’t assume that God is like some old, doting grandpa that looks the other way at our sin! No! Our sin breaks fellowship with Him! It builds barriers between God & us! So, when we sin He hides His face from us & refuses to listen to us in our presumptuous sin!

-Fellowship With God!

Our fellowship with God cannot be taken lightly! We cannot treat it like a casual thing & just assume we can fellowship with Him whenever we want; especially if we’re living in unrepentant sin! Under the old covenant, the sacrifices, required by God, were laborious & frequent! They were a constant reminder, to Israel, that it would take effort & a sincere heart if they desired relationship & fellowship with God. The sacrificial system was required, as part of their confession of sin. And, it foreshadowed the coming Messiah’s ultimate sacrifice for sin. When engaged, by faith, Israel’s sacrifices opened the door to genuine fellowship with God! To know Him & to be known by Him! And, by offering their sacrifices, to God, in humility & sincere confession, of sin, God would change their hearts! He would make them a holy people for Himself!

Yahweh: Merciful & Gracious!

-Living With Shame & Guilt!

Bettina Goering is the great-niece of Hermann Goering, one of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi leaders, who founded the Gestapo Secret Police & helped organize the holocaust. In a newspaper interview, from May 2016, she revealed how she & her brother were voluntarily sterilized.  “I had my tubes tied at the age of 30,” she said, “because I feared I would create another monster.” Monika Hertwig lives with the haunting memories of her own father, who was the commandant of an Auschwitz prison sub-camp. He was hanged, in 1946, for the murder of 10’s of thousands of people, at least 500 of them by his own hands.  “He liked to shoot women with babies in their arms from the balcony of his house,” she recollects, “to see if one bullet could kill two.” And, then she asks out loud, “How much of the murderer is in me? These are the things that torment me.”

-The Shadow Of Family Sin!

I find it haunting how the relatives, of Nazi war criminals, try and deal with the shame & the guilt they feel. What a tragedy that they continue to live in the shadow of the sins of family members! Could that be, in part, what Exodus 20:5 is referring to when it says, “You shall not bow down to idols or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” Could the guilt & shame, their offspring feel, be, in part, the punishment that they endure?

-Yahweh! God Of Compassion!

There’s a similar passage, in Exodus 34, that follows Israel’s breaking of the covenant, with God, when they made an idol, of a golden calf; and, worshipped it! “The Lord came down in a cloud, stood with him (Moses) there, and proclaimed His name Yahweh.  Then the Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed: Yahweh—Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth,  maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin. But He will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation. Moses immediately bowed down to the ground and worshiped” Exodus 34:5-8.  There’s perhaps no greater example, of God’s grace & compassion, then that passage! Israel broke the covenant with God! They didn’t believe God at the Red Sea! They complained against God & Moses in the wilderness! When would enough be enough? I wanna tell you that you all ought to be glad that I’m not God! I’m equally glad you aren’t; because, none of us have God’s love, grace & mercy for sinners!

-The Way To God!

Sin devastated man’s relationship with God! So, God established the sacrificial system for Israel, His covenant people, as a way for them to worship Him & restore fellowship with Him! It provided for repentance and forgiveness! Hebrews reflects back on the Old Testament sacrificial system:  “According to the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” Hebrews 9:33. No sacrifice! No forgiveness, God says! If you study each of the 5 sacrificial offerings, in the book of Leviticus, you’ll see how they foreshadow the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus’ life on the cross! Galatians 3:24 says, “The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith.”  The old KJV says, “The law was our SCHOOLMASTER…” that hands us off to Jesus Christ, God’s ultimate sin sacrifice!

 

God’s Purpose For His Laws!

-The Most Important Command?

Jesus reveals God’s intent, behind the law, when he answered a Pharisee’s question, “What is the most important command?” Jesus answered, “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest & most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” Matthew 22:36-40.  What Jesus calls “…the Law and the Prophets…” is the whole of the Old Testament. He’s referring to the “Torah”; or, the 1st 5 books of the Law. And, the “Prophets” was a reference to the rest of the Old Testament.

-Summarized By Two Commands!

So, Jesus was saying that everything, in the Law & the Prophets (or, the Old Testament) could be summarized by these 2 commands— Love GOD & love your NEIGHBOR! The 10 general commandments; and, the 613 specific commands, that follow, can all be encapsulated in Jesus’ answer to the question, “What is the most important command?” His answer? Love GOD & love your NEIGHBOR! Just look up Exodus 20 in your Bibles.  The first 4 commandments all focus on a loyal LOVE for God:  “no other gods”, “no idols”, “no using God’s name in vain” and “no work on God’s Sabbath.” The last 6 commandments all focus on the way we ought to LOVE our neighbor; or, our fellow human beings:  “honor mom & dad”, “don’t murder anyone”,  “don’t commit adultery”, “don’t steal”, “don’t lie about your neighbor” and “don’t covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.” So, here’s the big picture—  God is teaching Israel how to live now that He’s redeemed them from Egypt! That’s the context in which the 10 commandments were given!

-Redemption First! Then Commands!

He’s “redeemed” or “bought out” Israel from their slavery; and, He introduces the commands like this:  “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery” Exodus 20:2.  So, He redeems them; and, now He’s giving them the Law to direct them in the way they needed to live in a broken, sin-cursed world. Never did God intend to use the keeping of the Law as the means to being redeemed! That’s reversing the order! God redeemed them FIRST! He saved them from slavery; now, here’s how redeemed people live! Get it? This is incredibly important as it relates to salvation! God’s law was given TO a redeemed people; not, TO redeem people! God didn’t give Israel the Law to save redeem them! He’d already done that!

-Here’s How God’s People Live!

The principle is the same in the New Testament. James says “good works” FOLLOW our salvation! They don’t save us! So, I think it’s fair to ask what New Testament believers can learn from the Old Testament law? I would start by saying that the law reveals God’s character. It speaks to who He is. For example, He says He is “…a jealous God…” Exodus 20:5. That word “jealous” is used differently, in reference to God, then when we express “human” jealousy. We use it in the sense of being envious of someone because they have something we want. In context, God says He’s jealous when people make idols & worship them instead because He alone is God. It’s like a husband who has a right to be jealous when another man flirts with his wife because he alone has that right.  We’ll pick it up right there on next week’s post!