Thursday, August 21, 2014

SIGNS OF A REBELLIOUS NATION – (PART 2 – GOD’S JUDGMENT COMES)



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In Christ, Mark
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

Why do you continue to invite punishment? Must you rebel forever?

Your head is injured, and your heart is sick. You are battered from head to foot—covered with bruises, welts, and infected wounds—without any soothing ointments or bandages. Your country lies in ruins, and your towns are burned.

Foreigners plunder your fields before your eyes and destroy everything they see. Beautiful Jerusalem stands abandoned like a watchman’s shelter in a vineyard, like a lean-to in a cucumber field after the harvest, like a helpless city under siege.

If the Lord of Heaven’s Armies had not spared a few of us, we would have been wiped out like Sodom, destroyed like Gomorrah.

Isaiah 1:5-9 (NLT)

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

How can you identify a rebellious nation?

The beginning of the Book of Isaiah offers answers.

Yesterday, we observed how a rebellious nation will be one who rebels against God and we know God will not be disobeyed or disrespected, especially since He is the Maker and Creator of all peoples and thus the Father of all nations.

Today we will see how this rebelling against God and the subsequent incurring of His displeasure and consequences provide one more sign of a rebellious nation. For a nation that chooses to turn away from the Him is the nation that will experience His judgment.

Exhibit A for this is the nation of Israel.

Here was a nation that had it made. They were the chosen ones of God, more favored and blessed by Him than any other people. They fully experienced God’s provision, His caring and compassion, and His love.

You would think a people who had all this would be the people who would express the utmost gratitude and appreciation for the way they had been blessed and look to honor God with every ounce of their being.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. In fact, what we see when we survey the life of the people of Israel is what I like to refer to as the Old Testament cycle. This is how it works:

1. The people choose to violate God’s commandments and turn to sin and wickedness.

2. God in turn, sends a warning to His people, either directly or indirectly through a messenger (typically a prophet). The message is simple. Stop what you are doing or else suffer judgment and consequences. 

3. The people choose to ignore the warning and continue in their sinful ways.

4. God sends His judgment on the people who experience some form of difficulty or hardship.

5. The people cry out to God in the midst of His judgment upon them, confessing their sins, crying out for His mercy and forgiveness, and asking for the hardship to be removed.

6. God, out of His deep love and empathy for His people, puts His amazing grace on full display and restores the people back to His favor.

7. And then the people go right back and end up at step 1.

It’s true. Do a broad-based study across the Old Testament and the relationship between the people of Israel and God, and you will see it play out over and over.

Today, we see an indication of this ongoing struggle between God and Israel as we look again at the following scripture passage from Isaiah:

Why do you continue to invite punishment? Must you rebel forever?

Your head is injured, and your heart is sick. You are battered from head to foot—covered with bruises, welts, and infected wounds—without any soothing ointments or bandages.

Your country lies in ruins, and your towns are burned.  Foreigners plunder your fields before your eyes and destroy everything they see. Beautiful Jerusalem stands abandoned like a watchman’s shelter in a vineyard, like a lean-to in a cucumber field after the harvest, like a helpless city under siege.

If the Lord of Heaven’s Armies had not spared a few of us, we would have been wiped out like Sodom, destroyed like Gomorrah. 1:5-9

Do you sense God’s frustration with His people within these five verses?

I do. The endless procession of their rebelling and the ensuing punishment God inflicted was wearing on Him, leaving Him to wonder if they will ever wake up and just get it.

Speaking of Israel as a body, God details the long range effects of them repeatedly moving through the cycle. They included:

1. Head injuries.

Your head is injured.

2. Heart disease.

Your heart is sick.

3. Bodily damage and infection.

Your head is injured, and your heart is sick. You are battered from head to foot—covered with bruises, welts, and infected wounds—without any soothing ointments or bandages.

Question: If you were this badly injured as a result of some poor choices you made, would you go out and make that poor choice again?

Only a fool would do that, right?

Well, there’s little wonder why the scriptures in the wisdom books, and particularly in the proverbs, address the benefits of wisdom and the detriment of foolishness. It’s too bad the Israelites failed to learn from those wise maxims. Instead, they chose to continue down the path of destruction, a path that saw their country end up in ruins, its towns burning. The once fiercely protected Promised Land was now being plundered and destroyed by foreigners. Even the beloved, divine, holy city of Jerusalem was left a former shell of its former self, now relegated to the state of a watchman’s shelter or lean-to, left helpless and hapless.

Friends, if a nation is reflecting these kinds of symptoms, embattled and torn, beaten and bruised by attack and destruction, then we need not look for any other explanation than the one we find here in Isaiah. For a rebellious nation will experience the judgment of God and that judgment is not going to be a pleasant experience.

Just ask Sodom and Gomorrah.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

SIGNS OF A REBELLIOUS NATION – (PART 1 – REBELLION AGAINST GOD)



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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth! For the Lord has spoken:

“I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against Me. The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.”

“Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption!
They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.

Isaiah 1:1-4    

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

Today we start our study of the Book of Isaiah, renowned as one of the greatest prophets of the Bible. If you want the story of where Israel went wrong, how God chose to judge and correct those wrongs, and how God restored and redeemed His chosen people then this is the book for you and we’ll be studying here for quite a while so buckle up and get ready for a great ride through a critical part of Israel’s history and an important part of our Christian history and heritage.

Looking at the opening chapter, we find God very unhappy with Israel as relayed through the prophet Isaiah in a vision. These statements of God should serve as a warning for nations today, for we can see where His chosen nation went wrong and thus incurred His judgment and justice. Any nation today is subject to the same if they choose to turn from God and His will and way for their land.

So what are the signs of a rebellious nation?

That’s what we’re going to look at in this opening series from this book. The first sign is a nation’s rebellion against God. Look at these words from the Lord as He speaks about Israel:

Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth! For the Lord has spoken:

“I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against Me. The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.”

“Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.  1:2-4

Look at the specific indictments against Israel:

1. They rebelled against God.

“I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against Me. The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.”

God is the Father of all mankind, the Creator and Maker of everything. He reared Israel, nurtured the nation from its infancy, correcting where necessary while blessing and protecting His chosen people. But like a teenager rebels against their parents, the people of Israel decided to reject their Father God and follow their own will and way, ignoring His guidance and turning away from giving Him their full worship and praise. This rebellion, a blatant disrespect and dishonoring of the God who made them, saved them, and sustained them, incurred His anger and punishment, something the people of Israel did not understand would come upon them. For if they had truly understood their place, as an ox knows its master and a donkey its owner, then they would not have even considered insolence, insubordination, or shaming God an option.

Today, nations are repeating the mistakes of the past and turning from the God who made and reared them to rebel against Him. And like Israel, all nations who choose to adopt this mindset will face the consequences for their defiant attitudes and actions.

2. They chose sin and evil over righteousness.

“Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption!

The rebellion of the people of Israel, turning from God’s ways to their own, led the people to sin and evil, placing them firmly guilty before their supreme Judge, God. Sin and evil led to wicked behavior like corruption and idol worshipping. Sodom and Gomorrah should have served as a chilling example of what can happen when the people of God chose sin over righteousness, both cities experiencing woe by way of utter destruction. As we will see, Israel will have their own set of woes attached to their disobedience and impudence. Any nation today can expect the same.

3. They turned their backs on God.

They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.

Perhaps this was the biggest slight of all by Israel. For God had never turned His back on them but rather loved, guided, protected, and delivered them through many challenges and now that He had brought them to the promised land, the land He had set aside to bless them with, they now turned their backs on Him, the One who promised His people He would never leave them or forsake them.

It’s little wonder that God was angered by the actions of His people and their complete disregard for Him. Only a foolish people would do so and there’s no doubt the Israelites became foolish in their life attitudes, falling prey to the way of the world and the false worship practices that abounded around them. God had warned them about interaction with other nations but they didn’t listen and as soon as Israel began to get intertwined with those nations, then they became intertwined with the cultures that ran counter to God’s commands and decrees.

Today, we find nations doing the same. The United States has had a saying, “In God We Trust,” on their currency for some time. Through the years, this saying served as a bold statement that America had placed their faith and trust in God’s guidance, direction, and protection. But in present day, we find our country moving in a direction that is counter to the assertion that we believe and trust in God. Rather, we are moving in a direction that is rebellious, a direction that too often chooses sin and evil over righteousness, a direction that cries out that we have turned our backs on the very God we assert we trust.

With this, we should not forget the story of Israel and what happened to them when they did this. For God will not be mocked or disrespected and anyone who chooses to do so can expect woe from His wrath and judgment, even the mighty United States of America or China or Russia. Certainly, mightier empires have risen and fallen at the hands of the Lord God Almighty.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

THE PRINCIPLES OF A LOVING, GODLY RELATIONSHIP – MAN TO WOMAN (PART 4 – PROTECT YOUR RELATIONSHIP)



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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.

Why would you gaze on the Shulammite as on the dance of Mahanaim?

Song of Songs 2:15; 6:13b    

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

Today is the last of my devotions in the Song of Songs and the conclusion of writings from what is referred to as the wisdom books of the Bible. Tomorrow we will start to get into the major prophets beginning with Isaiah but before that we need to wrap up looking at the principles of a loving, Godly relationship, specifically as it applies to how a man should treat his female partner.

In the Song of Songs, we have seen beautifully poetic exchanges between Solomon and Shulammite, two people deeply in love with one another. Through them, we see a model of the kind of love the Lord desires for all relationships and a love that is indeed achievable if we submit to Him and allow His love to be our love. When we do that, then and only then will mates discover true appreciation and affection for one another.

Well, it’s these commitments, to the Lord first and then to one another, that allow a man to praise and openly profess his partner’s beauty, to cherish and treasure her love, and to see the rich value that she carries in his life. It’s also what leads a man to protect his relationship and mate against any attacks that would serve to either spoil or ruin the special love the Lord has given.

Keep this in mind: Satan’s sole purpose is to utterly destroy every good and perfect thing the Lord does and that includes wrecking relationships. From what we see in the world today with so much brokenness and less long term commitment, Satan is achieving his purposes on many fronts and I believe the reason is that people are not placing the Lord first in their lives and in their relationships. As a result, they have no Great Protector to keep them safe, no Great Shepherd to lead and guide them, no Great Counselor to advise and comfort them, and no Great Love to experience and share together. Live without the Lord and you are leaving yourself completely exposed and vulnerable to sin and wickedness with Satan ready to impart them on you in abundance.

Conversely, live for the Lord and He will be your shield, your refuge, the One who will watch over you and give you hope in a world where there seems to be so much despair (Psalm 119:114). He will ward off Satan who will never have the victory over anyone when the Lord is present and lead a man and woman into righteousness and holiness and goodness and blessing.

Why did Solomon and Shulammite’s devout love survive in the midst of sin and temptation?

Because their love was a love the Lord gave, complete with discernment and the ability to see the enemy at work around them as well, a love that allowed the Lord’s sense of protection to find its way into Solomon’s heart as he watched over his beloved Shulammite. We know this through these words from chapters 2 and 6 of the Song of Songs:

Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom. 2:15

Why would you gaze on the Shulammite as on the dance of Mahanaim? 6:13b

The scriptures talk about Satan roaming like a lion ready to devour (1 Peter 5:8) but he, or anyone he bids to do his evil work, also could be looked at as foxes, not as bold or powerful as lions but rather sly and deceiving as they seek to do their destructive work. Here, that destructive work is within the vineyards in bloom where the foxes would come in and ruin the fruits but the allegory here is that the vineyards are the relationship that Solomon and Shulammite share and the foxes are those who would want to enter in and spoil the love they share for one another. This is why Solomon is petitioning, perhaps to the Lord Himself, to help him catch anyone who would seek to damage the loving, Godly relationship with Shulammite and keep that love safe and intact.

Where do we find the little foxes today?

Perhaps it’s in those who would seek to seduce and start affairs. Perhaps it’s the difficulties and hardships of life that seek to wedge their way into a relationship and separate one mate from the other. Perhaps it’s substance abuse of some kind where alcohol or drugs become more of a love to one of the partners that their mate. Perhaps it’s in family members who choose to try and create strife and discord between a couple. Perhaps it’s in pornography or other sexual temptations that would seek to steal away love from one partner to another in exchange for artificial thrills or pleasure.

There is no shortage of little foxes today that seek to wreck and destroy relationships. Satan is busy in that capacity, there is little doubt about it and, as mentioned, is making significant headway on many fronts. That is why this devotion is critical and a good place to end our discussion about loving, Godly relationships. Because you can do everything you can to adore the beauty of your partner, to cherish the love you have with her, to value her as the most important thing in your life, but if you fail to protect her and your relationship by placing the Lord first in everything, invoking His power and defense, then you are leaving the gate of your personal vineyard open for Satan’s little foxes to enter in and do damage.

Men, God’s word is speaking to you loud and clear today, exhorting you to protect your relationship by seeking, accepting, and receiving the best security system ever, the Lord God Almighty, the only One who Satan has no chance against ever. Do that and the blessed love you have with your beautiful partner you value so much will endure and bless you richly through all the years you share together.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

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