Wednesday, February 22, 2017

WHO CAN STAND?



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

A prophecy concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum, the Elkoshite.

“The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on His foes and vents His wrath against His enemies.”

“The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea and dries it up; He makes all the rivers run dry. Bashan and Carmel wither and the blossoms of Lebanon fade. The mountains quake before Him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at His presence, the world and all who live in it.”

“Who can withstand His indignation? Who can endure His fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before Him.”

Nahum 1:1-6

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

Today, we continue our study of the minor prophets in the Old Testament by looking at Nahum. Before we dive into the book that bears his name, let’s go over some pertinent information, setting the historical period and place.

First, we know Nahum served as a messenger for the Lord during the reign of King Josiah who reigned as the ruler of the southern kingdom of Judah for 31 years from 641-610BC. Given this, we know that Nahum prophesied before the destruction of Israel and Judah by the Assyrians and Babylonians respectively, a destruction that was followed by a seventy year exile.

Secondly, given the period that Nahum served as God’s spokesperson, we know that he did his work at the same time as Zephaniah and Jeremiah in his early years.

Finally, we will see that the focus of Nahum’s prophesies will center on the fall of Nineveh, Assyria’s capital city. This is the same Nineveh that was in the crosshairs of God’s judgment earlier in the Old Testament but then was spared after the city’s people repented following Jonah informing them they would face God’s punishment. As we’ll see in Nahum’s three chapters, the Ninevites went back to their sinful ways and this time around, God wasn’t going to let them off the hook.

With this as a background, let’s look at the first six verses of Chapter 1:

A prophecy concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum, the Elkoshite.

“The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on His foes and vents His wrath against His enemies.”

“The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea and dries it up; He makes all the rivers run dry. Bashan and Carmel wither and the blossoms of Lebanon fade. The mountains quake before Him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at His presence, the world and all who live in it.”

“Who can withstand His indignation? Who can endure His fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before Him.”  Nahum 1:1-6

Since we know that the Lord’s consequences are about to be pronounced on Nineveh, these words serve as an ominous summation of what the Assyrian city would be up against. It’s downright scary to think about what would happen to anyone who chose to oppose God in any way.

I mean, who can stand against the Lord God Almighty?

Anyone who tries can expect to face the following:

1. A God who is jealous.

“The Lord is a jealous…God.”

God not only expected but commanded that He would be worshiped alone. No other gods were acceptable and if anyone decided to direct their affections toward any other deity, God would deal with that person or persons harshly. He made it clear and He still makes it clear that He is God and He demands that His people always remain faithful to Him.

2. A God who is avenging.

“The Lord is an…avenging God. The Lord takes vengeance…The Lord takes vengeance on His foes”

Do something against God and you can expect He will come against you. No enemy of His will ever be able to stand against His vengeance because no enemy possesses the power of the Lord Almighty.

3. A God of wrath.

“The Lord…is filled with wrath. The Lord…vents His wrath against His enemies. Who can withstand His indignation? Who can endure His fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire.”

It’s never a good place to be when you are facing someone who is angry with you but it’s really a place of utter horror and peril when you are facing the wrath of a God who could easily wipe you off the face of His creation in a moment’s notice. Go back and look at some of the people who decided to be enemies of God. Many of them were completely annihilated, never to see life again.

Indeed, who can withstand the indignation or endure the fierce anger of the Lord?

4. A God who is great in power.

“The Lord is…great in power.”

The word to remember here is “omnipotent” which simply means the Lord is all powerful, perfectly powerful and without rival. Because everyone is subordinate to God’s power, then no one can overcome Him and thus no one will ever gain victory when up against Him.

In other words, no one can stand in opposition to God.

5. A God who does not leave the guilty unpunished.

“The Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea and dries it up; He makes all the rivers run dry. Bashan and Carmel wither and the blossoms of Lebanon fade. The mountains quake before Him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at His presence, the world and all who live in it.”

People might think they get away with wicked deeds but they don’t and they won’t. God will bring His judgment upon them for the scriptures are truth and the scriptures here assure us that the Lord does not leave the guilty unpunished. Everyone will be held accountable by God for any transgressions they commit.

So what could Nineveh expect after returning to iniquity after receiving God’s pardon?

They could expect a God coming against them who was jealous, avenging, angry, all powerful, and ready to penalize them for their sins.

I think you can figure out they wouldn’t be able to withstand that kind of God.

For no one can stand against God and come out triumphant. It was true in the days of Nahum and it’s still true today.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

NO ONE LIKE GOD



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.
In Christ, Mark
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** 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
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

“Nations will see and be ashamed, deprived of all their power. They will put their hands over their mouths and their ears will become deaf. They will lick dust like a snake, like creatures that crawl on the ground. They will come trembling out of their dens; they will turn in fear to the Lord our God and will be afraid of you.”

“Who is a God like You, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. You will be faithful to Jacob, and show love to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our ancestors in days long ago.”

Micah 7:16-20

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

Today, we finish our study of the Book of Micah with a message we all need to cling to, a message that has spanned the ages since the dawn of creation.

What is the message?

It’s simply this:

There is no one like God.

It’s the final message to an Israelite people who had seen and would again see the unmatched power of God on display, a power God leveraged in judgment but also in restoration and renewal. It was a power He used to correct and a power He used to deliver. It was a power that had no equal, a perfect power that elevated God above all creation.

Did I mention that there is no one like Him?

As we turn to the final verses of Micah 7, we find this theme at the center. Look again at these words again:

“Nations will see and be ashamed, deprived of all their power. They will put their hands over their mouths and their ears will become deaf. They will lick dust like a snake, like creatures that crawl on the ground. They will come trembling out of their dens; they will turn in fear to the Lord our God and will be afraid of you.”

“Who is a God like You, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. You will be faithful to Jacob, and show love to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our ancestors in days long ago.” Micah 7:16-20

The people of Israel had sinned against God and in turn they would pay the price for those sins. God would send His judgment upon them, bringing enemy forces from Assyria and Babylon to plunder and run roughshod over what was once a holy and powerful nation, one feared by its enemies.

Why were they feared?

Because Israel served the one true God and there was no one like Him. Certainly, none of the false gods worshiped by Israel’s rivals could do anything when facing off against God Himself. Neither could any mere mortal human, no matter their level of authority and position of leadership. The bottom line was that every nation was subordinate to God and would be “deprived of all their power” if they chose to oppose Him. They could either come to the Lord willingly or He would send consequences against them in response to their wickedness, consequences which would drive those enemy nations to a place where they would “turn in fear to the Lord”

Note that there are other traits mentioned in our scripture passage that distinguish God from anyone or anything else. They include:

1. His authority to pardon sin.

No one has ever been able to pardon themselves from the sins they have committed. No one. We are all destined for destruction and annihilation for our transgressions.

So who changed that narrative? Who saved us from the death sentence iniquity brings?

You got it. Only God because there is no one like Him. Only He could save us and so He made the way for all mankind to have the opportunity to be pardoned by sending His Son Jesus to die in their place. Thus, all one had to do was believe Jesus was their Savior and they would be saved, rescued from death and ushered into life (John 3:16).

Only God could do that.  

2. His forgiveness of transgressions.

In order to pardon our sins, God had to first forgive us for our transgressions, transgressions that He despises. In our verses today, we’re told He treads on our iniquities before hurling them into the depths of the sea. This wasn’t easy for God to do given His hatred for sin but He did it. Later, Jesus, while receiving mocking and derision while crucified on the cross, would look down on those mistreating Him and ask God to forgive them for they knew not what they were doing (Luke 23:34).

And God did as His Son requested. He forgave the sinners who His Son died for.

Oh, if we could only forgive like God. But then again, there is no one like Him.

3. His anger which doesn’t prolong.

It’s not that God fails to get angry at His people. Just read a little of the scriptures, especially in the Old Testament, and you’ll see He does for sin can generate His wrath.

But here’s the thing that separates God from anyone else.

He gets over His anger. In other words, He doesn’t remain angry forever like some human beings might who harbor hatred against others for life, sometimes even from generation to generation.

The scriptures tell us that God does not stay angry forever and we should give thanks every day for that truth.

4. He delights in showing mercy.

Note here that God doesn’t feel compelled to show mercy to His people as if He is obligated to show mercy in some way. Rather, the word of God today from Micah tells us the Lord delights in showing mercy to others.

Try and find anyone else who does this as consistently as God. You won’t find someone because there is no one like Him, no one who delights in showing mercy as He does.

5. He renews His compassion for His people over and over again.

Look at the behavior of the Israelite people in the Old Testament and you will see a cycle form over and over again that begins with sin that prompts God to send a warning to His people through a messenger such as a prophet. The people would ignore the warnings given them and continue to sin, prompting God to send the punishment He promised. Then, once the people were in the midst of their consequences, they would cry out to God, confessing their wrongs and asking for His forgiveness.

Guess how God responded each time?

He showed His people compassion and He did so repeatedly. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone else who was as compassionate as God on so many occasions. Indeed, there is no one like Him when it comes to the matter of compassion.

6. He is faithful.

Try and find anyone in your life who has been perfectly faithful. Even the best person you could bring to mind would pale in comparison to the faithfulness of God because only He is perfectly faithful. No matter these words were written about Him in the Book of Lamentations, words that speak of the prior discussed compassion, His faithfulness, and the last quality we’ll look at, His love:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:22-23

7. He never fails to show love to His people.

For the ages, ranging back to even before Abraham and through present times, God has been defined by His love. It was a love that did not wish for His people to perish but to have everlasting life so He offered up Jesus as the final sacrifice ever needed for the atonement of sins (John 3:16), the Lamb of God sent to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29). To experience the perfect love of God forever, all one has to do is to believe in His Son and receive His salvation promise.

Indeed, as we find in the words of 1 Corinthians 13:8:

Love never fails.

And it doesn’t because it comes from a God who never fails, a God who is perfect in every way, a God who is with us and for us.

There is no one like Him.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

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Monday, February 20, 2017

REVISITING THE EXODUS



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.
In Christ, Mark
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** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

“As in the days when you came out of Egypt, I will show them my wonders.”

Micah 7:15

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

In the first devotion from Micah 7, we found the prophet lamenting over the fallen world he found himself within, an environment punctuated by sinfulness and disobedience against God, an environment he placed in God’s hands, willing to watch and wait for Him to act against.

And God did act, sending judgment against the Israelites which would span for seventy years, a judgment that humbled the once proud, powerful, holy nation and made it the laughing stock of their enemies who took great pleasure in gloating over Israel’s misfortunes.

All would not remain bad for Israel however for the Lord brought them back to their homeland after they served the allotted time of punishment. He restored His people and made the way for them to rebuild their country, their cities and towns, their homes, and, of course, their relationship with Him. Indeed, as we saw in yesterday’s devotion, Israel would rise up from the depths of God’s consequences and once again become a mighty nation, perhaps even mightier than before.

Once again, they would be a people dedicated to God and He in turn would be dedicated to them.

As we see in today’s scripture passage, the Lord speaks to His beloved nation and gives them this hope for the future, saying:

“As in the days when you came out of Egypt, I will show them my wonders.”

Surely the Israelites were well aware of the mighty wonders God showed His people during their exodus from Egypt to Canaan under the leadership of Moses. You remember those miracles, right? They included:

1. The dividing of the Red Sea.

You’ll recall that the Israelites faced a real barrier to escaping Egypt and Pharaoh and his soldiers who were in hot pursuit. For they came to the Red Sea and there was no way anyone was swimming across to safety.

Enter the amazing, wondrous power of the Lord God Almighty who channeled His power through Moses to part the sea and allow the Israelites to cross on dry land. I can just imagine how wide-eyed God’s people were as they walked between walls of water, walls that would come crashing down on Pharaoh and his men once all the Israelites had crossed safely (Exodus 14).

2. Supernatural, divine GPS.

The Israelites would have had no navigational devices to help them get from Egypt to Canaan, the land God had promised to give His people to settle in. They needed guided to where God wanted them to be and God provided that guidance in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13, Nehemiah 9).

3. Water from a rock.

The people of God were in the midst of their wilderness journey and they found themselves out of water. There was great fear amongst the Israelites that they might die of dehydration before ever reaching the land they had been promised. Again, enter God who brought water out of a rock after Moses struck it with his staff. Once again, the Israelites had drink (Exodus 17).

4. Food from the heavens.

A lack of water wasn’t the only thing that plagued the Israelites. For they reached a point where they ran out of food as well and faced starvation unless some provision came their way. And so God did what God does. He provides for the needs of His people. Soon manna came down from heaven in the morning, bread for the people to eat. Then in the evening, God sent quail from the heavens and His people had meat to eat. God did not long for His people to go hungry and they found they had plenty to eat (Exodus 16).

I could go on but you get the point. God had done incredible things for the Israelites as He brought them out of Egypt and now He was promising to perform more wonders for the people of Micah’s day. It had to be a source of great encouragement and comfort for the Israelites who were returning from another lengthy time away from home.

Today, we need to revisit the exodus ourselves from time to time so we stay reminded of the tremendous, remarkable power of the Lord, a Lord through which nothing is impossible. For He is still the same God of wonders and we should never discount what He can do in our lives or the lives of others.

Nothing is ever beyond the work of His almighty hands.  

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

RISING FROM THE DEPTHS



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.
In Christ, Mark
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** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

“Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.”

“Because I have sinned against Him, I will bear the Lord’s wrath, until He pleads my case and upholds my cause. He will bring me out into the light; I will see His righteousness. Then my enemy will see it and will be covered with shame, she who said to me, “Where is the Lord your God?” My eyes will see her downfall; even now she will be trampled underfoot like mire in the streets.”

“The day for building your walls will come, the day for extending your boundaries. In that day, people will come to you from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, even from Egypt to the Euphrates and from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain.  The earth will become desolate because of its inhabitants, as the result of their deeds.”

“Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, which lives by itself in a forest, in fertile pasturelands. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in days long ago.”

Micah 7:8-14

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

The final chapter of Micah is interesting in that we find several voices speaking throughout it. In some instances, ones we have seen already, we have had the prophet Micah Himself providing the voice. But in other places, like the verses we will look at today, we find the nation Israel itself as the narrator. Tomorrow, we find God chiming in with words as well.

Up to now, we have found Micah lamenting about the fallen state of Israel, a nation about to receive the fullest extent of God’s judgment for their blatant, sinfulness. We know the prophet resigned himself to simply watch and wait for the Lord to come and take action against all the wickedness with the intent of correcting the Israelites and leading them toward being the kind of people He wanted them to be.

As we continue to look at Micah 7, we see Israel finally speaking up, acknowledging the wrongs they have committed, understanding that punishment was warranted, but also holding onto hope for a brighter future after they had paid the price for their transgressions. After Israel speaks, we will find Micah come back into the picture and speak words of hope and encouragement to the Israelite people. Look again at these verses here:

“Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.”

“Because I have sinned against Him, I will bear the Lord’s wrath, until He pleads my case and upholds my cause. He will bring me out into the light; I will see His righteousness. Then my enemy will see it and will be covered with shame, she who said to me, “Where is the Lord your God?” My eyes will see her downfall; even now she will be trampled underfoot like mire in the streets.”

“The day for building your walls will come, the day for extending your boundaries. In that day, people will come to you from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, even from Egypt to the Euphrates and from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain.  The earth will become desolate because of its inhabitants, as the result of their deeds.”

“Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, which lives by itself in a forest, in fertile pasturelands. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in days long ago.”  Micah 7:8-14

Israel was in an unfamiliar position of weakness. God had removed His favor from them and they were ransacked, both the northern and southern kingdoms by the Assyrians and Babylonians respectively. Their misfortune brought great pleasure to the enemy nations around them, enemies who gloated over the destructive disaster that had befallen the once powerful, holy nation.

It was those enemy nations that Israel addresses in our scripture passage assuring them all that although God’s people had fallen, they wouldn’t stay down forever for a day would come in the future when they would rise up again from the darkness and the Lord would once be their light.

Note that Israel isn’t blaming God for what was about to happen to them. The nation instead shows full accountability, confessing that they had sinned against the Lord and thus would bear His wrath until the penalty had been paid. Then, having served their sin sentence, the people of Israel would return to the Lord’s favor, to His light where they would once again see His righteousness.

With this, the message from Israel to their enemies was clear.

“You’re next!”

For on the coming day when Israel would be restored by God, it would bring shame on her enemies who had mocked her before by asking where God was in the midst of their plight. The enemy nations rejoiced in Israel’s downfall but their own collapse and ruin was just around the corner. Indeed, we know that it did happen just the way it was predicted.

So Israel had spoken, admitting their iniquities, holding onto hope for the future, and condemning their enemies.

Next we see Micah sending a message to the Israelite people.

“The day for building your walls will come, the day for extending your boundaries. In that day, people will come to you from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, even from Egypt to the Euphrates and from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain.  The earth will become desolate because of its inhabitants, as the result of their deeds.”

Micah reinforces the truth that Israel will return from exile to flourish and prosper once again. The nation would return home to rebuild their walls, even extending their boundaries from before. They would flock home and once again create fertile pasturelands where they could raise crops and livestock to provide food.

How prosperous would Israel be?

So prosperous that other major nations would come to them, nations like Assyria and Egypt. Nations would flock to Israel once again from “sea to sea” and “mountain to mountain”.

In the end translation, Israel was going to rise from the depths and once again be in a position of world prominence, not because of anything they had done but rather because they once again had God on their side. And with Him, anything would once again be possible.

Friends, I’m not sure where you might be today. Maybe you are in the midst of some challenge, hardship, or difficulty and if so, today’s message should bring you some sense of comfort and hope. For if there is anything that the Lord God Almighty has done consistently, it’s been helping people rise out of the depths of the darkness of their harsh circumstances and into the light of His righteousness and provision.

He did it for His people Israel and He will do it for you too. Just be patient, watch, and wait in hope for Him to move in His perfect time.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

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

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