Saturday, May 28, 2016

THE FULL VENT OF WRATH



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.

How the gold has lost its luster, the fine gold become dull! The sacred gems are scattered at every street corner. How the precious children of Zion, once worth their weight in gold, are now considered as pots of clay, the work of a potter’s hands!

Even jackals offer their breasts to nurse their young, but my people have become heartless like ostriches in the desert. Because of thirst the infant’s tongue sticks to the roof of its mouth; the children beg for bread, but no one gives it to them. Those who once ate delicacies are destitute in the streets.

Those brought up in royal purple now lie on ash heaps. The punishment of my people is greater than that of Sodom, which was overthrown in a moment without a hand turned to help her. Their princes were brighter than snow and whiter than milk, their bodies more ruddy than rubies, their appearance like lapis lazuli. But now they are blacker than soot; they are not recognized in the streets. Their skin has shriveled on their bones; it has become as dry as a stick.

Those killed by the sword are better off than those who die of famine; racked with hunger, they waste away for lack of food from the field. With their own hands compassionate women have cooked their own children, who became their food when my people were destroyed.

The Lord has given full vent to His wrath; He has poured out his fierce anger. He kindled a fire in Zion that consumed her foundations. The kings of the earth did not believe, nor did any of the peoples of the world, that enemies and foes could enter the gates of Jerusalem. But it happened because of the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests, who shed within her the blood of the righteous. Now they grope through the streets as if they were blind. They are so defiled with blood that no one dares to touch their garments. “Go away! You are unclean!” people cry to them. “Away! Away! Don’t touch us!” When they flee and wander about, people among the nations say, “They can stay here no longer.” The Lord himself has scattered them; He no longer watches over them. The priests are shown no honor, the elders no favor.

Moreover, our eyes failed, looking in vain for help; from our towers we watched for a nation that could not save us. People stalked us at every step, so we could not walk in our streets. Our end was near, our days were numbered, for our end had come. Our pursuers were swifter than eagles in the sky; they chased us over the mountains and lay in wait for us in the desert.

The Lord’s anointed, our very life breath, was caught in their traps. We thought that under His shadow we would live among the nations.

Lamentations 4:1-20

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

For the majority of Chapter 4 of Lamentations, we get a glimpse of what life would look like when God vents His full wrath and pours out His fierce anger on His people. It would consist of the following hardships:

1. Lost wealth.

How the gold has lost its luster, the fine gold become dull! The sacred gems are scattered at every street corner. How the precious children of Zion, once worth their weight in gold, are now considered as pots of clay, the work of a potter’s hands!

Judah was a nation of great wealth. Its people were people who had great value, the prize jewels in God’s eye.

But sin took over, sin that God despises, and so what had great worth had lost its luster and become dull. What was sacred was scattered. The Israelites went from being golden to being as worthless as lumps of clay used to form pots.

2. Severe famine.

Even jackals offer their breasts to nurse their young, but my people have become heartless like ostriches in the desert. Because of thirst the infant’s tongue sticks to the roof of its mouth; the children beg for bread, but no one gives it to them. Those who once ate delicacies are destitute in the streets.

Those killed by the sword are better off than those who die of famine; racked with hunger, they waste away for lack of food from the field. With their own hands compassionate women have cooked their own children, who became their food when my people were destroyed.

How bad was starvation?

So bad that the people of God felt it would have been better to be struck down by a sword than have to die from famine.

No one was spared by the onset of abject hunger. Not the adults and not even the children, possibly the most gut-wrenching aspect of the extent of God’s wrath and an aspect of it that should be a major deterrent to ever placing ourselves in a position to experience it.

3. Ruined royalty.

Those brought up in royal purple now lie on ash heaps. Their princes were brighter than snow and whiter than milk, their bodies more ruddy than rubies, their appearance like lapis lazuli. But now they are blacker than soot; they are not recognized in the streets. Their skin has shriveled on their bones; it has become as dry as a stick.

The kings of the earth did not believe, nor did any of the peoples of the world, that enemies and foes could enter the gates of Jerusalem. But it happened because of the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests, who shed within her the blood of the righteous. Now they grope through the streets as if they were blind. They are so defiled with blood that no one dares to touch their garments. “Go away! You are unclean!” people cry to them. “Away! Away! Don’t touch us!” When they flee and wander about, people among the nations say, “They can stay here no longer.” The Lord himself has scattered them; He no longer watches over them. The priests are shown no honor, the elders no favor.

Kings, princes, priests, and prophets. All had prominent places of authority in the Israelites community, authority vested in them by God. But again, sin entered into the picture and the blood of the righteous was shed. So the Lord disempowered all who committed iniquities against Him and held those in authority accountable for their actions.

The princes were left so destitute that they became unrecognizable.

The kings falsely assumed they would be safe and no one could enter Jerusalem but they assumed wrong. We know the Babylonians broke through the city’s security and took over, removing the kings from power.

The priests, prophets, and elders, once revered for their piety, were now seen as unclean and left to wander about with no one willing to take them in. God scattered them and no longer kept them in His care.

4. Horrific judgment for sin.

The punishment of my people is greater than that of Sodom, which was overthrown in a moment without a hand turned to help her. 

The Lord has given full vent to His wrath; He has poured out his fierce anger. He kindled a fire in Zion that consumed her foundations.

Think about how devastating God’s judgment was on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. They were both leveled by the Lord as He rained down burning sulfur from the heavens.

Now consider that the Israelites viewed the seventy year exile as greater punishment than that, a testimony to the degree of severity that came when God vented His full wrath on them. He kindled a fire that consumed the very foundations that the Israelites had built their lives.

5. No help from anyone.

Moreover, our eyes failed, looking in vain for help; from our towers we watched for a nation that could not save us.

Maybe there is no worse feeling than knowing you are alone and isolated, abandoned and without help.

This is where the Israelites found themselves. They no longer had any allies, no one who was willing to come to their rescue. And who could blame other nations because think about who they would be coming to oppose: the Lord God Almighty Himself. No one stood a chance trying to go against God and so nations did the smart thing and they stayed away, leaving the Israelites to fend for themselves.

6. Overwhelmed by adversaries.

People stalked us at every step, so we could not walk in our streets. Our end was near, our days were numbered, for our end had come. Our pursuers were swifter than eagles in the sky; they chased us over the mountains and lay in wait for us in the desert.

The Lord’s anointed, our very life breath, was caught in their traps. We thought that under His shadow we would live among the nations.

With the Lord removing His protection from His people and allowing them to be attacked by the Babylonians, the Israelites became easy targets for their assailants. Those who were once the Lord’s anointed were now caught up in the traps of those who came against them. They were stalked and captured before being hauled away into captivity, something they never dreamed would happened but then again, I’m sure God never dreamed His people would put Him in a place where He had to send judgment in the first place.

Lost wealth. Severe famine. Ruined royalty. Horrific judgment for sin. No help from anyone while being overwhelmed by adversaries.

This what any nation can expect if they sin against God and instigate Him sending judgment spurred by the full vent of His wrath.

The scriptures are sending us fair warning through what happened to the Israelites more than 2,000 years ago.

We had better take notice and never repeat the mistakes of the biblical past.

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, May 27, 2016

DIVINE RETRIBUTION



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.

“You, Lord, took up my case; You redeemed my life.”

“Lord, You have seen the wrong done to me. Uphold my cause! You have seen the depth of their vengeance, all their plots against me. Lord, you have heard their insults, all their plots against me—what my enemies whisper and mutter against me all day long. Look at them! Sitting or standing, they mock me in their songs.”

“Pay them back what they deserve, Lord, for what their hands have done. Put a veil over their hearts, and may your curse be on them! Pursue them in anger and destroy them from under the heavens of the Lord.”

Lamentations 3:58-66

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

The Israelites were in the thralls of a seventy year captivity, held in oppression and slavery by the Babylonians who had brutally attacked them in their homeland before taking them into exile. Everything the Israelites had was lost, destroyed and left in ruins by their assailants. There were many of God’s people who never made it to Babylon alive, slaughtered in the onslaught. Even the beloved city of Jerusalem was not spared as God’s holy temple was looted and then laid to waste.

When it was all said and done with, the once mighty, holy nation of Canaan and its two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, were reduced to rubble and became the laughingstock of the world. It was a humiliating defeat that only happened because God had removed His protection from His people, allowing the assault to happen as a part of His judgment for their sinful worshiping of false gods and idols.

But all was not lost. God had not turned away from His people forever. In fact, He promised there would be an eventual end to His people’s suffering and sorrow, a time when He would bring redemption and restore them back to their homeland, a time when He would usher in divine retribution.

As we read the closing words of Lamentations 3, we can see that this fulfillment of promise to rescue His people from exile was actually an answer to the prayers of His people. Look at these final verses again:

“You, Lord, took up my case; You redeemed my life.”

“Lord, You have seen the wrong done to me. Uphold my cause! You have seen the depth of their  vengeance, all their plots against me. Lord, you have heard their insults, all their plots against me—what my enemies whisper and mutter against me all day long. Look at them! Sitting or standing, they mock me in their songs.”

“Pay them back what they deserve, Lord, for what their hands have done. Put a veil over their hearts, and may your curse be on them! Pursue them in anger and destroy them from under the heavens of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:58-66

At the end of the scripture at the heart of yesterday’s devotion, we found the Lord giving His people words of reassuring comfort.

What was His message?

It was “Do not fear.”

With this, we can understand why the Israelites would be able to respond with the following:

“You, Lord, took up my case; You redeemed my life.”

God had not turned from them forever. Rather, they cried out to Him, He heard their plea, and then responded with words of support and encouragement. He had taken up their case and cause with redemption being in sight. A situation that was once hopeless now looked promising. The Israelites saw a brighter future on the horizon.

But to get there, one big hurdle needed to be cleared and that was the Babylonians. The Israelite captors would need to be defeated before God’s people could be liberated and as we see through their words, they had an idea of how that liberation would take place.

It would come through divine retribution.

Now, this was something the Israelites knew all about because it was what they experienced first hand. They disrespected, disregarded, and were disobedient toward God, inciting His anger, and so they received the full extent of His punishment as a result. Now they called on the same retribution from God to come against Babylon.

They asked God to answer the wrongs committed against His people and uphold their cause against their enemies, enemies who displayed vengeance and plotted against the Israelites. These same enemies hurled insults, whispering and muttering mockery toward God’s people every chance they got. It was so extreme that the Israelites were fed up with the mistreatment and called on God to redeem them by paying back their enemies with what they deserve and that was essentially the same judgment God had brought on them. That judgment included being cursed and pursued in anger, in destruction and removal from prominence.

So how did God respond to these pleas from His people?

Well, we know that He answered them as He brought the Persians against the Babylonians, a conflict that ended in Persian victory and subsequent Israelite redemption and release. Indeed, God’s people did not need to fear because He was in control and was with them. They had stirred His ire and forced His hand in sending consequences their way but after they had paid the price, they again were in favor with God and received the fullest measure of His mercy, grace, and love.

And so it will be with us as well today. We need to understand that God will send divine retribution against anyone who opposes Him, anyone who chooses to sin in disobedience against Him. But we also know that God will not allow His anger to rage forever and there will be a time when He delivers and saves us from His penalties to a place where we can again live in His joy, peace, and love.

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

Thursday, May 26, 2016

REASSURING COMFORT



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.

What I see brings grief to my soul because of all the women of my city. Those who were my enemies without cause hunted me like a bird. They tried to end my life in a pit and threw stones at me; the waters closed over my head, and I thought I was about to perish.”

“I called on Your name, Lord, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea: “Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.” You came near when I called You, and You said, ‘Do not fear.’”

Lamentations 3:51-57

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

Yesterday, we saw the unrivaled sorrow and sadness that comes when God’s people are in the midst of His judgment. It was a sorrow and sadness that resulted in a flow of unceasing tears.

Where can one find peace and comfort when in the center of such distress or any distress for that matter?

As we see in today’s scripture passage, that peace and comfort only comes from the Lord. Look again at these verses:

What I see brings grief to my soul because of all the women of my city. Those who were my enemies without cause hunted me like a bird. They tried to end my life in a pit and threw stones at me; the waters closed over my head, and I thought I was about to perish.”

“I called on Your name, Lord, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea: “Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.” You came near when I called You, and You said, ‘Do not fear.’”  Lamentations 3:51-57

As this excerpt from Lamentations 3 begins, we are reminded of the deep grief the speaker is feeling as they lament and mourn over what they have gone through.

Their enemies had hunted them down like they were common birds, trying to stone the speaker to death. In the presence of such peril, they thought they were sure to perish.

Maybe you have felt the same feeling of defeat when you have been in the middle of difficulties and hardship in life.

But look at what the speaker did when they were facing death. They didn’t just give up hope. Rather, they turned to the Lord in faith, calling on His name from the depths of the pit they were in.

And God heard their plea, a plea that He would not turn away from them in their deep time of need. He came near to the speaker when they called and had one very simple statement to make, a statement of reassuring comfort.

What was that statement?

Simply put, it was this:

“Do not fear.”

You see, there was no need for the speaker to be afraid because God was with them. He drew near when called upon and was there to protect and console, to rescue and save.

Friends, do a quick survey of the scriptures and you will find this reassurance from the Lord in many places.

He gave it to Abram as He made His covenant with him (Genesis 15:1).

He gave it to Abraham and Sarah’s slave, Hagar, who mothered Ishmael (Genesis 21:17).

He gave it to Isaac’s son, Israel (formerly Jacob) (Genesis 46:3).

He gave it to Moses (Exodus 14:3) and his predecessor in leading the Israelites, Joshua (Joshua 8:1).

He gave it to Gideon (Judges 6:23).

He gave it to Elijah (2 Kings 1:15).

And the list goes on and on and on, throughout all the generations of God’s people to where we are today. For no matter what we are going through in life, no matter how hard things might get, the Lord has the same words of reassuring comfort to share with us.

Friends, keep faith in the Lord who wants to say to you, “Do not fear for I, your God, am with you.”

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

UNCEASING TEARS



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.

“You have covered Yourself with anger and pursued us; You have slain without pity. You have covered Yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can get through. You have made us scum and refuse among the nations.”

“All our enemies have opened their mouths wide against us. We have suffered terror and pitfalls, ruin and destruction. Streams of tears flow from my eyes because my people are destroyed.My eyes will flow unceasingly, without relief, until the Lord looks down from heaven and sees.

Lamentations 3:43-50

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

Think about the saddest moment you have ever had. Remember how hard it was to find joy in the midst of your sorrow as the dark storm clouds of life’s difficulties gathered overhead. Recall the many tears you shed and the need for comfort you felt.

It certainly wasn’t a time you would ever want to go through again nor wish for anyone else to have to go through. And yet, even that saddest moment in your worldly life will pale in comparison to the grief and distress you will feel if you ever find yourself in the midst of God’s judgment.

What does that heartache look like?

We see a glimpse of it in today’s scripture passage as we continue to study from Lamentations, Chapter 3. Look again at these words here:

“You have covered Yourself with anger and pursued us; You have slain without pity. You have covered Yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can get through. You have made us scum and refuse among the nations.”

“All our enemies have opened their mouths wide against us. We have suffered terror and pitfalls, ruin and destruction. Streams of tears flow from my eyes because my people are destroyed.”  Lamentations 3:43-50

Imagine this judgment scene for a moment.

You have angered the Lord through your sinful living to the point where He has had enough and chooses to send His punishment upon you and others in your population. It isn’t just a slap-on-the-wrist kind of penalty but the death sentence in some instances as the Lord killed those He was punishing without any pity. He also chose to completely demolish everything that you held dear, leaving nothing but ruin and destruction. Sending up prayers to Him, asking for relief and mercy, was fruitless as the Lord had made sure that no petitions would make it to Him. It was a time of terror for you and your fellow people.

In fact, the harsh punishment was so bad that your once proud and respected nation was now looked at as scum when compared to other countries. Your nation was now a mockery in the world picture, the recipient of humiliating insults from those who were considered enemies as they had no reason to fear your country anymore.

It’s not a pretty picture by any means and look at the emotional impact it had on the Israelites who were the people at the heart of our scripture verses:

“Streams of tears flow from my eyes because my people are destroyed.”

Note here that we aren’t talking about a few random sobs in response to having fallen out of God’s favor. Rather, a torrent of tears came and fell hard from the eyes of the Israelite people. Such will always be the case when anyone finds God opposing them.

So why should we be concerned with this passage today?

Because it shows us a place we should never want to be, specifically in the midst of God’s judgment. For when it comes, we will find ourselves in a place of misery and melancholy like we have never experienced before, a place where we, like the Israelites, will end up crying unceasing tears.

Frankly, let’s do ourselves a favor and just be fully obedient to God, living in a way that is pleasing in His sight, a way that brings His blessings instead of His consequences, a way that ensure we can live in joy and peace each day without having to worry about experiencing God’s punishment.

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