Sunday, January 15, 2017

DEPRIVED OF THE WORD



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.
In Christ, Mark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
** Like posts and send friend requests to the author of The Christian Walk, Mark Cummings on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mark.cummings.733?ref=tn_tnmn
** Become a Follower of The Christian Walk at http://the-christian-walk.blogspot.com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

The Lord has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: “I will never forget anything they have done.”

“Will not the land tremble for this, and all who live in it mourn? The whole land will rise like the Nile; it will be stirred up and then sink like the river of Egypt.:

“In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your religious festivals into mourning and all your singing into weeping. I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads. I will make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.”

“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.”

“In that day, the lovely young women and strong young men will faint because of thirst. Those who swear by the sin of Samaria—who say, ‘As surely as your god lives, Dan,’ or, ‘As surely as the god of  Beersheba lives’—they will fall, never to rise again.”

Amos 8:7-14

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

The Israelites had angered God through their sinful actions and in response, God promised punishment in many forms. Those forms had mostly been physical in nature as God assured His people that their land would be destroyed and they would be displaced, taken into captivity and exiled to a foreign land.

But as we find in the closing verses of Amos, chapter 8, the penalty God would impose on the Israelites would not just cover the physical, tangible parts of their lives but the spiritual as well. Look again at these words from the Sovereign Lord:

The Lord has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: “I will never forget anything they have done.”

“Will not the land tremble for this, and all who live in it mourn? The whole land will rise like the Nile; it will be stirred up and then sink like the river of Egypt.:

“In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your religious festivals into mourning and all your singing into weeping. I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads. I will make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.”

“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.”

“In that day, the lovely young women and strong young men will faint because of thirst. Those who swear by the sin of Samaria—who say, ‘As surely as your god lives, Dan,’ or, ‘As surely as the god of  Beersheba lives’—they will fall, never to rise again.”  Amos 8:7-14

Note God promised to not overlook the sins of His people, vowing to “never forget” what they had done. He would hold them accountable for their transgressions and blatant disrespect and disregard for Him and the way He commanded them to live. He would send attacking forces from Assyria and Babylon to assault Israel and Judah respectively, bringing extreme hardship and difficulty to the Israelites. God’s people would be left in a state of mourning and weeping, driven to wear sackcloth and shave their heads, both symbols of deep emotional grief. There would be absolutely no room for joy because God’s ire was coming upon the Israelites in full force.

How could it get any worse?

God shows us through His word that it could and would.

For not only was God taking away everything He had blessed His people with, their homeland and homes and security, but He was also withdrawing His word. The Israelites would seek to find some form of guidance and direction, any inkling of comfort and assurance but they would be left void. God likened the removal of His word to a famine as the people would come hungering and thirsting to hear from Him but find nothing, no matter where they sought it.

In other words, the Israelites were going to suffer spiritual starvation and dehydration. God provided a vision of the young, lovely women and strong men, fainting from this spiritual malnourishment. And God promised that those who tried to seek satisfaction through turning to gods would fall and never rise again.

It was a pretty bleak picture of what was to come, a picture that was bleak enough before the Lord took away His word.

Today, we find people deprived of the word just as the Israelites were in Amos’ day but it isn’t because God has somehow taken His word away. Rather, His word is more readily available today than ever. The problem is that people decide to ignore the word of God. They starve themselves spiritually because they seek their own wisdom or the wisdom of the world and end up with what amounts to foolishness.

How do I know this?

Because the scriptures tell me, especially these words of Jesus who was simply quoting Old Testament words from Deuteronomy:

“Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4

With this, God’s word is asking us today, “How healthy are you spiritually? Have you been feeding yourself spiritually from My word or are you spiritually famished?”

Where do you size up when it comes to these questions?

If you have found yourself away from the Bible and all blessed instruction within, then I pray you will recommit yourself to the scriptures today and make it a part of your daily discipline. For unlike many things of the world that will leave you feeling unfulfilled and empty, Jesus promises us the following when we come to the word of God, hungry and thirsty for what it provides:

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Feel free to leave a comment and please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com

Saturday, January 14, 2017

RIPE FOR PUNISHMENT



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.
In Christ, Mark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
** Like posts and send friend requests to the author of The Christian Walk, Mark Cummings on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mark.cummings.733?ref=tn_tnmn
** Become a Follower of The Christian Walk at http://the-christian-walk.blogspot.com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me: a basket of ripe fruit.

“What do you see, Amos?” He asked.

“A basket of ripe fruit,” I answered.

Then the Lord said to me, “The time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.”

“In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “the songs in the temple will turn to wailing. Many, many bodies—flung everywhere! Silence!”

“Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, saying, “When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?”—skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat.”

Amos 8:1-6

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

In Chapter 7 of Amos, we found the Lord using a plumb to illustrate how He had measures His people and found them crooked and untrue as a result of their sinfulness.

As Chapter 8 opens, we find the Lord using another object, ripe fruit, to frame His message to His prophet Amos. Look again at these words here:

This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me: a basket of ripe fruit.

“What do you see, Amos?” He asked.

“A basket of ripe fruit,” I answered.

Then the Lord said to me, “The time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.”

“In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “the songs in the temple will turn to wailing. Many, many bodies—flung everywhere! Silence!”

“Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, saying, “When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?”—skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat.”  Amos 8:1-6

Here we find the Lord once again giving Amos a vision and asking him what he saw within the vision. Amos looks and sees a basket of ripe fruit, relaying it onto the Lord.

So what did that ripe fruit have to do with the Israelites?

It was simple. For we find God telling Amos that His people were ripe for judgment.

Think about the word “ripe” for a moment. It indicates that something has grown to a place where it is fit to be harvested. We typically think of this as a positive thing as in fruit ready to be picked and eaten, offering up its deliciousness to the consumer.

But in regard to the Israelites, the word “ripe” was not intended to indicate anything good, not in any sense. For it only pointed to the fact that the sins of God’s people had reached a point where they would no longer be allowed to continue living in them. The trampling of the needy and poor was going to stop. The deceit and dishonesty in conducting business was going to end. And the worshiping of false gods and idols was going to cease.


Indeed, the sins of Israel were going to be dealt with. No longer sparing them, God was set to harvest His people, taking them from the sinful lives they were living and sending them into His judgment with the hope that His punishment would bear the fruits of repentance and draw the Israelites back to Him. God knew that there would be suffering and sorrow, anguish and remorse, fear and terror but the Israelites had to learn a lesson. God was not going to tolerate sin.

The same applies to us today. We serve the same God as the Israelites of Amos’ day and we are being watched and scrutinized just as much as they were.

So what does God see when He looks at us?

Does He see a faithful, obedient people, loyal to His word, will, and way as we selflessly serve Him and others?

Or does He see a sinful lot who, like the Old Testament Israelites, feel they can do what they want to do regardless if He has commanded otherwise, a people who are like a basket of ripe fruit ready for God to send His punishment upon us?

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Feel free to leave a comment and please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com

Friday, January 13, 2017

THE ONLY WORD THAT MATTERS



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.
In Christ, Mark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
** Like posts and send friend requests to the author of The Christian Walk, Mark Cummings on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mark.cummings.733?ref=tn_tnmn
** Become a Follower of The Christian Walk at http://the-christian-walk.blogspot.com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent a message to Jeroboam king of Israel: “Amos is raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel. The land cannot bear all his words. For this is what Amos is saying:

“‘Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.’”

Then Amaziah said to Amos, “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. Don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.”

Amos answered Amaziah, “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ Now then, hear the word of the Lord.”

“You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel, and stop preaching against the descendants of Isaac.’”

“Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘Your wife will become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword. Your land will be measured and divided up, and you yourself will die in a pagan country. And Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.’”

Amos 7:10-17

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

Everybody has a word in life.

It’s part of our every day existence, isn’t it?

God has blessed us with the ability to communicate and everyone takes advantage of that blessing with each day they are allowed to live. Whether they use that blessing properly or not, is another question. More on that later.

For now, I want to make sure we all understand that although we each have a word in life, we don’t have THE word. In other words, there is a hierarchy when it comes to things that are said and it goes like this:

God has the first and last word. Everyone else speaks subordinate to Him.

Let me say that one more time for emphasis and write in on your heart, mind, and soul.

God has the first and last word. Everyone else speaks subordinate to Him.

Let me give you a few examples as you how this is true.

Maybe you are in a place of difficulty, let’s say financial hardship which could have come from any number of circumstances. You don’t know how you are going to make ends meet and don’t have any answers to your problems. Everyone you speak to tells you the situation is impossible and there’s no way things are going to work out.

But then, you receive a blessing. Assistance you had been seeking comes through or some debt is forgiven or reduced. No one, including yourself, thought things were going to work out but in the end, God had the final word. He spoke to you through the resolution of your issues, reminding you that through Him, all things are possible.

Let’s take another example.

You are in a marriage that has steadily been going downhill. You and your partner seem to grow further and further apart every day. Your words toward one another are ones of anger and disrespect when you speak at all. All your family and friends are telling you to get a divorce and just end things, convinced that there is no chance at reconciliation.

But then something happens. You pray over the matter and go to the word of God where you find encouragement and conviction. You realize where you have gone wrong in your relationship and decide it is worth a chance to apologize to your partner for the way you’ve acted and ask for a chance to start anew. It takes a lot of courage to admit your mistakes to your mate but when you tell them you’ve been praying and reading the scriptures, they look at you and tell you they have been doing the same and are equally encouraged and convicted. Your partner tells you they have been just as wrong in the ways they have acted. You both decide to start fresh, this time allowing the Lord to lead and guide the relationship. Through it all, God had the last word, speaking to both your hearts and saying, “This relationship is not over until I say it’s over.”

Let me give you one more.

You have been diagnosed with cancer. You’re told that it’s pretty advanced but surgery and treatment is still an option. The doctors feel it’s worth a shot but are telling you they don’t think you’ll live more than a year or two more if that. You talk to your family and friends about it and a myriad of stories arise about other people who were given similar cancer diagnoses and had not made it. No one seems to want to give you much of a chance but you decide to go through with the surgery and treatment anyways. You think to yourself, “Might as well do it. What do I have to lose?”

But then something happens. You go through the operation and treatment and afterwards the doctors are amazed because you are cancer free and in remission. They are amazed at how the cancer had left your body as they had not seen a recovery and healing quite like it before. You feel blessed because although your life was hanging in the balance, God had the last word, revealing to you that He has been, is, and will always be the Great Physician.

Yes, God will always have the last word as we see further confirmed and affirmed in our scripture passage for today. Look again at these closing verses taken from Amos 7:

Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent a message to Jeroboam king of Israel: “Amos is raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel. The land cannot bear all his words. For this is what Amos is saying:

“‘Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.’”

Then Amaziah said to Amos, “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. Don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.”

Amos answered Amaziah, “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ Now then, hear the word of the Lord.”

“You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel, and stop preaching against the descendants of Isaac.’”

“Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘Your wife will become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword. Your land will be measured and divided up, and you yourself will die in a pagan country. And Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.’”  Amos 7:10-17
   
Note here that Amos is being taken to task by Amaziah who we are told is the priest of Bethel who was unhappy with the prophesies of Amos and sent word to Jeroboam, the king of Israel. The word Amaziah brings is accusatory right out of the gate as he charges Amos with “raising a conspiracy” and causing issues within the populace. At the heart of the prophesy was two main events:

First, and of foremost interest to the king, Amos has prophesied that the king himself would die by the sword. In other words, the king’s days were numbered.

The king wasn’t the only one whose days were numbered because the second thing Amos promised was exile for the people of Israel. They weren’t going to be killed but they were going to be taken away into exile from their native land.

All this was too much for Amaziah to take and he decided to have a word with Amos after sending the message to Jeroboam. Essentially, Amaziah commanded Amos to leave and go back to where he had come from, demanding he stop prophesying, depart the northern kingdom of Israel, and head south to his homeland of Judah (you’ll recall that Amos was originally from Tekoa, a city twelve miles south of Jerusalem).  

In essence, Amaziah had lost his mind because any real priest of the God Most High would understand that the Lord sends His word through messengers and as we see from the passage, Amos simply reminds Amaziah that he is only doing what God called him to do:

“I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’”

It wasn’t as if Amos had taken it upon himself to go and prophesize. Rather, God chose him to leave his life as a shepherd and farmer to become His messenger to the nation of Israel.

What was Amos getting at?

He was basically letting Amaziah know when he rejected the words of prophecy he spoke, he was really rejecting the words of God Himself, something that obviously wasn’t going to work with God. We know this from the next words that came from the mouth of Amos, words that were not his own but rather the words of the Lord who said:

“You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel, and stop preaching against the descendants of Isaac.’”

“Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘Your wife will become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword. Your land will be measured and divided up, and you yourself will die in a pagan country. And Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.’”

You see, it didn’t matter whether Amaziah was able to shut down the prophet Amos or not. His word would not be the last word because that always belongs to the Lord who shared a message of judgment for the northern kingdom of Israel.

In other words, it’s only the word of the Lord which truly matters and that word promised peril for Israel, peril which came to pass through the Assyrian empire who brought destruction on the north before hauling the Israelites into captivity, just as God has promised.

Friends, I pray we are paying attention to the word of the Lord here, a word that is imploring us to place our hope and trust in His word, a word that urges us to have faith in Him regardless of what others say.

For in the end translation, the word of the Lord is the only word that matters. It was true in the day of Amos, it’s true today, and it will be true forever more.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Feel free to leave a comment and please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com