Ezra: A man with a missionary’s heart.

God requires a broken heart for repentance

In Babylon, Ezra spent his time memorizing scripture, praying, and seeking help from the king. He prepared to leave Babylon and return to Jerusalem – the city he probably never had seen, yet it was in his heart to go there and teach the people about God. [Ezra 7:10] Ezra trusted God to provide all he needed and set the example of how to lead both practically and spiritually. Committed, like Moses and Joshua, he prepared the people to follow him. 

We are experiencing social distancing, but the Babylonian kings had it down to a science. All Jews were isolated from the Babylonians. God isolated them so He could raise a holy people to return to Israel; but not so in Jerusalem. There the influences of the wicked culture had impacted the people’s resolve to be pure before God.

The leaders in Jerusalem decided to wait until Ezra had shared the treasures of the king—then they shared about the unholy alliances they had made. The news brought Ezra to his knees; he tore his hair and his robes and sat down devastated. Chapter 9 is the example of a missionary’s repentant prayer that brought the people to their knees. What about us when we see the sin of our nation? Do we drop to our knees and spread our hands to the Lord God?

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The Price of Sin

The price of sin

1 Chronicles 21 King David decides he wants to know how big his army was, but we aren’t told why. The backdrop note is that God allowed the adversary to slip in unnoticed.  To alert David to the sin he was about to commit, God sent wise a counselor through Joab, His General. Joab pleaded with David to not do a census, but his words fell on deaf ears. David insists, and so finally, Joab follows through. God, in His patience, allowed this sin to fester for over a year and a half. Not always does God allow us to see the fruit of our sin.

We all need a Joab in our life to challenge us as to our motives in decision making. God uses them to discern where our hearts lay. For David, his heart was in his pride of the army he had amassed. What he had not counted on was the price that would he would have to pay for his sin. David was “like someone who gazes at his face in a mirror. For he gazes at himself and then goes out and immediately forgets what sort of person he was.” [James 1] It is because of his filtered view that God sent Joab into his life. 

David didn’t back down, but somewhere along the path of foolish decisions; the Spirit came to him to prick his heart. Although God forgave David, the price for his sin was grievous. The same goes for us when we sin. There is always a price to be paid. God set the price for our sin with the body and blood of His Son.

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‘Sad Tales are Teachable Moments’

2Samuel 13 a sordid tale

2Samuel 13

Some stories in God’s word are so painful to read that we want to skip them, but God has left them in there as a teaching tool for each of us. This chapter falls into the x-rated material, but we want to focus on what we can learn from the sordid tale of the rape of Tamar. One is that as much as Tamar loved her brothers, she was not discerning. Truth point: often, when we love someone strongly, we are blind to their faults. Secondly, when someone says no, they mean no. A third lesson is what Dr. Constable noted: 

“More Christians have probably memorized 1 John 1:9, which says: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” than Romans 6:12-13. “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

 First John 1:9 deals with how to handle sin after we have committed it; it is corrective theology. Romans 6:12-13 deals with how to handle sin before we commit it; it is preventive theology. We need to pay more attention to Romans 6:12-13. 

One of the purposes of 2 Samuel 13 is to help the reader prevent this type of sin rather than help us recover from it having fallen. It is a strong warning against letting our passions lead us because of the consequences that will follow.”

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Psychological Warfare

1Samuel 17 Satan is a master at word games as he seeks to destroy us. When he can’t get at us using physical means, he comes at us emotionally. “From their vantage point, the Philistines and their champion, Goliath, engaged in a bit of psychological warfare, taunting Israel and boasting of their military superiority.” [Ligonier Ministries]

It is into this scene that David, the anointed, but not yet king, of Israel arrives to hear the defiant words of Goliath. Although Saul is head and shoulders above the men of Israel, he cringes at the terms of Goliath.  David stood up to face this giant even though His brothers sought to shame him for coming to the battlefield. David asked:  “What have I done now? Can’t I say anything?”

David squares off with Goliath, and in the end, he is victorious, and Goliath is dead. What was David’s success? It was that David did not allow the word games of Goliath to destroy his confidence. David proved that some trust in horses and chariots, but he trusted in the Lord his God. He told Goliath that when this happens, the “assembly will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves! For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will deliver you into our hand.”

Where are you facing a Goliath? Remember that the Lord is for you, and He will fight this battle.

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No Excuses!

1Samuel 15 How often do we begin our explanation for doing wrong with the word “but” just like King Saul? We try to save face by not admitting wrong. “BUT I have obeyed the Lord”! I went on the campaign the Lord sent me on.” But when pressed by Samuel, he admits, “I have sinned, for I have disobeyed what the Lord commanded and what you said as well.” 

Saul would have been wiser to stop there, but instead, he compounds his sin with a second excuse. I was fearful of the army. To be fearful of man, more than God is anathema! Pro 29:25 The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe. 

Saul, like many of us, just want our sins to be covered and forgiven. “Now, please forgive my sin and go back with me so I can worship the Lord.” Saul was essentially saying; just forgive me and let’s get on with our life. We do not want to lose face. Listen to Saul: “I have sinned, BUT please honor me before the elders of my people and Israel”. It was all outward repentance but not inward repentance. Psa 51:17 The sacrifices God desires are a humble spirit —O God, a humble and repentant heart you will not reject. 

Fear and Pride moved Saul to disobey. What is your reason for disobedience? How can you conquer these two foes spiritually and practically?

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The Sex Trafficker of Judges 19-21

This week we honor women across our globe for their accomplishments and their witness. Yet, today in the last part of Judges, God has us meet someone who is voiceless but pays the price of the sins of humanity. The author of judges walks us through the life of a Levite who is deceitful, selfish, and a liar. God wants us to see the depravity and reality of Romans 1:18-31. It is hard to read these chapters.

This Levite has failed to follow Levirate law by acquiring a concubine. He has a temper. He lacks the basics of caring for another human individual. He is the sex-trafficker personified. God’s mirror reveals the sin nature of mankind minus His righteousness. Today we see it front and center in our world, and we, like the Levite, are failing in our protection for the most vulnerable.

God reveals the concubine as a woman who has no voice in this sex-trafficking scenario. The Levite has lost all decency when he lies and then dismembers her to make us aware of the reality of the horror of our sinful nature.  He sleeps through the night, but the concubine is left alone to face the rape and torture of her person. We see his uncaring attitude as he dismembers her and sends her body parts around the nation.

There are some questions we need to be asking. Where is the honor for the one whose voice is never heard? Where is our outrage? Where is our compassion for those caught up in this wicked cycle? Take time today to ask God’s forgiveness.

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What principles guide your life?

Judges 18-19 As the Israelites moved farther and farther away from Yahweh, people began to look for other means to bring them success. Unfortunately, the principle of pursuing God’s kingdom and his righteousness has taken a back seat. Meet Micah, whose name means “who is like God” as an example. He lived in the time when Israel had no king, and each man did what he considered right. He lived just a stone’s throw from the tent of God in Shiloh, but God’s word and principles were far from his memories of a holy lifestyle. Instead, if someone stole from you and you had the opportunity to steal back, it was rewarded with words of affirmation. How far they have fallen to have forgotten the Commandment: “Thou shalt not steal.” Micah steals, but instead of correcting him, his own mother “blesses” and has an idol made to honor his treachery. Then Micah bribed the Levite to stay with him offering ten pieces of silver per year. That loyalty lasted until a better offer came to the Levite. Micah then met his match in the Danites, who plundered an innocent town “just because” they were little and peaceful and when he faced them was told to “back off,” or he would face the same consequences.

These stories remind us of gang wars and the memory of Al Capone; bribery, murder, payoffs, and more. When God is absent, men’s hearts are evil continually as they look for prosperity, and the wealth and prosperity gospel takes precedence. We read about it in Noah’s day and now again here in Micah’s day and fast forward to today.

It is stories like this that should drive us back to God and His word. Proverbs 3: do not let mercy and truth leave you; bind them around your neck. Acknowledge God and follow Him in all your ways, and he will make your paths straight.

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God’s Patience

judges 9 to 12 patience of godaThere is a pattern that becomes very evident in this book and it is what we read in Judges 10:1 “The Israelites cried out for help to the Lord: “We have sinned against you. We abandoned our God and worshiped the Baals.” How many times does a nation have to walk around the wilderness to get the message that God is God and He will not share His glory with another? The patience of God is mind-boggling! And here we are in the 21st century viewing this same pattern and God is still patient with us today.

Judges 9-12 reveals that once again the nation started out correctly but soon diminished into chaos and idolatry. It is then that they come back to God in tears and repentance only to remain that way until the judge died and the people are left without a godly leader. Yet the patience of God is remarkable. He allows us to wallow in the mire but is ready to forgive and reinstate us to a higher state. How often are we like Thomas Jefferson when we come to chapters like these? When Jefferson found a passage he didn’t like he took scissors to it. But, we are not to be like that because God has placed these chapters in here for a reason that we might learn and apply biblical principles to our lives.

What lessons is God teaching you as you read this book?

 

 

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Grace and Mercy

Joshua 19 grace and mercy2aJoshua 19-21  The Israelites still had not conquered all the land, so Joshua sent teams out to scout out the land, and to bring him their findings at the camp at Shiloh. The men journeyed through the land and mapped it and its cities out into seven regions on a scroll. Without maps, we would be spatially blind because they are an abstract image of locations. Thus the chapters in Joshua give us spatial relevance as to where the tribes were to claim land ownership as part of their inheritance.

Joshua parcels out their inheritance based on those maps. In this chapter, we find that Simeon was given land within the boundaries of Judah, thus fulfilling Jacob’s prediction that Simeon would experience dispersion because of his sin with Levi in the city of Shechem after their sister’s rape.  Which brings us to the lesson we need to learn: your sin will find you out. God remembers and looks for us to admit our sin, but if we do not, He allows for sin to come to fruition before punishing. Jacob reminded both that their knives were weapons of violence, and thus both sons would be scattered. The Levites were foolish slaughtering foreigners but were zealous in defending God’s honor at the Golden Calf incident. Simeon is the only tribe not blessed by Moses and is later is placed in “protective custody” in the land of his brother Judah. Levi was later exalted not because of who he was or what he had done but only by God’s grace. Simeon’s curse remained because he did not seek God’s mercy.

 God hates sin and its fruit. Let us learn from Simeon!

Grace and Mercy are free at the throne of God. Seek it!

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Alone with God

Leviticus 16 alone with God

Leviticus 16 “Nobody is to be in the Meeting Tent when he enters to make atonement in the Holy Place until he goes out, and he has made atonement on his behalf, on behalf of his household, and on behalf of the whole assembly of Israel.” Lev 16

Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement reminds us of the work of our Savior. He came, he lived, he died; was buried and rose again, just as 1Corinthians 15 tells us. The picture of that series of steps is seen in the Atonement when Aaron or the High Priest would alone perform each step. Alone, Aaron understood, more than any other time, the price paid for his sin and the sins of the people.

Alone he would enter and adjust the light from the Menorah and change the Shewbread on the Table.  Alone he offered the incense on the altar as he prayed for himself and the people. Alone he would slaughter the animal and drain the blood. Alone he would take the blood behind the curtain and sprinkle it on the Mercy Seat. All of these steps were a picture of what Christ would do for us.

With each step, the High Priest was to be alone as a reminder that we must seek the face of God alone as we meet with God about our sin just as Jesus was alone as He paid for our sin.

When was the last time it was just you and God? 

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