As then, so today, fear is the tool of the enemy. Cyrus gave the returning Israelites permission to rebuild the Temple, so what was the problem? The Samaritans used fear and intimidation to stop the work. As God’s prophet, Haggai reminded them that as God provided food, protection, and leading in the wilderness so He would provide now. Yet, the Israelites were excusing their delay in rebuilding by telling one another, “The time for rebuilding the Lord’s temple has not yet come.” [Hag 1:2] How often do we excuse our obedience using similar reasoning? Haggai reminded them that it was time and God was behind them, so “do not fear!” Haggai was saying, look at your life and your lack of provision for yourselves. God has withdrawn his blessing because of your disobedience. Has that been your experience as well?
Both Haggai and Zechariah were pleading with the people, “turn back to God and He will turn back to you.” Learn from your ancestors who did not listen and obey Me. [Zech 1:2, 3]
Are we listening? Do we trust God to do what seems an impossible task? Remember the words of another prophet of God; Isaiah. “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ [Is 41:10]
Jeremiah 49-50 The Bible once again proves to be true. Jeremiah prophesies against the nations surrounding Israel for their aggression against her when she needed help against King Nebuchadnezzar. Centuries later, when Saddam Hussein was in power in Iraq, he saw himself as a modern reincarnation of Nebuchadnezzar. To prove it, he spent millions building a massive reconstruction of Babylon. But, as Jeremiah prophesied, Babylon would never be rebuilt but be a habitation of jackals. “For out of the north a nation has come up against her, which shall make her land desolation, and none shall dwell in it; both man and beast shall flee away.” [Jer 50:3] One of the tour guides laments; history is a poignant reminder; nothing built by men lasts forever.
Men seek to play God, and God reminds us over and over:He will never share his glory with another. [Is 42:8] Again, Psa 20:7 Sometrust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
The years may change but the enemies of God remain entrenched. Just as there were enemies all around “Jacob,” they are there today. The enemy’s goal is to decimate the land and God’s people yet God sees God hears, and God will make an end of those who seek the end of His people.
Jeremiah is to pronounce three prophecies about Egypt, Philistia, and Moab. All served false gods as those lands do even today. Then it was the false stone idols; today, it is many false religions. Thus amid this, God reminds his people twice: “do not fear; you shall return. I will not make a complete end of all the nations to which I have driven you, but of you, I will not make a full end. Yes. I will discipline you, and I will not leave you unpunished, yet do not fear.” [Jer 46:27-28]
Today, Egypt is a lowly kingdom fraught with the unrest that comes from those who seek power through force. Philistia as a kingdom is no more but a strip of land we call Gaza controlled by warlords who starve the people to make war machines against Israel. Moab is the land of Jordan and a nation that waffles, and between all three lay Israel.
What is the truth for today? When the enemies of God seem to be in control, fear not for all their rattling swords is just that. Trust God.
2Kings 18-19, Ps 46, Ps 80, Ps 135 “How to Handle a Bully.”
King Hezekiah was a righteous king who followed the Lord but faltered when the bully King Sennacherib sent his emissary to taunt King Hezekiah. King Sennacherib is what we call a bully, for his words do not match his actions unless we capitulate to his demands, which Hezekiah did the first time. Bullies, seek to shame, ridicule, tease and yes even slander our faith. When you concede, you give a bully the right to up his demands, precisely what Sennacherib did. The second time, Hezekiah did not falter but took the demand to the Lord. Why is it that we follow Hezekiah’s example? The answer is found in Prov 29:25 “The fear of man is a snare…” We fear men more than we fear God. But, don’t forget the last part of that verse: “he who trust in the Lord will be exalted.”
We should learn from Hezekiah how God works when we do not meet the bully’s demands but lay them before the Lord. When Hezekiah did that, Isaiah the prophet sent him the answer: Do not fear but trust in the Lord. So then, to cement that truth in Hezekiah’s mind and the minds of his kingdom, God sent his angel of death into the camp of the Assyrians and killed not just one but 185,000 in one night.
Lesson from Hezekiah’s playbook on how to handle a bully; humble thyself and seek the face of God. Trust in God that He will work to protect His own. He may not kill the enemy but then again He just might. The lesson for us is to stand back and watch God work!
We live in tumultuous times of uncertainty, and many men and women are troubled. It seems that our entire world is topsy turvy. Many say there is no peace; they wring their hands and moan. They ask where is God? It seems the Lord is unaware of what is happening! Yet Isaiah’s words from the Holy One are comforting:
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you! Don’t be frightened, for I am your God! I strengthen you – yes, I help you –yes, I uphold you with my saving right hand!” [Is 41:10] “I am the Lord! That is my name!” [Is 42:8]
God is not only aware, but He is still on the throne and waiting patiently for men to turn to Him. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” [2Pet 3:9] The evidence is overwhelming: “For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse.” [Rom 1:20]
Whatever you are facing, know this truth: God is the Holy One; give Him praise for He sees, He hears, He knows. He is waiting for you to turn to Him.
God speaks to His children through Isaiah: woe to you who make alliances with those who are not My Sheep. You are a rebellious people who refuse to listen to the instruction of the Lord. You are saying we don’t want to hear any more about the Holy One of Israel. Don’t prophesy to us what is right but speak to us of pleasant words. Does this not sound just like today?
“For there will be a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things.” [2Ti 4:3]
God asked his people: “What did you not learn after 430 yrs. of bondage? These are the very ones who held you captive, and only after ten plagues did they release you!” Their gods did not save them, and they won’t save you. So why do you trust in them instead of the Holy One of Israel? Have you forgotten this? “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” [Prov 29:25]
Isaiah’s words are pertinent today. “For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; he will save us.” Isaiah 33:22 If you are like these to whom Isaiah was speaking, return to Him, and trust Him. He alone is God. He is waiting.
Isaiah is looking into the future, and he sees that God is God and He alone should be praised. Men seek self-salvation and praise for themselves. Why trust in idols, for they fail every time. This reminds us of the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Elijah asked the question we all need to ask: “If the Lord is the true God, then follow him, but if Baal is, follow him!” [1Kings 18:21]
Where is our focus; on God or the dead idol? Jeremiah wrote: “Such idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field. They cannot talk. They must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them because they cannot hurt you. And they do not have any power to help you.” [Jer 10:5]
The truth is this: Vs. 4 God protects the innocent who are poor and needy Vs. 5 He humbles the boasting of foreigners [Is 25] and this is also true; one day God will wipe away the tears from every face and remove his people’s disgrace and they then they will say look here is our God. They will say we waited and He delivered [Is 25:9]
Are we waiting for God or seeking help from worthless idols?
Eccl 3: The psalmist asked, “why are you downhearted?” [Ps 42:5] The “Preacher” answers that question by saying grace and peace are not in increased possessions or wealth. If you want grace and peace, believe God, take Him at His Word and trust Him in the plan He has designed for you. True wisdom is seeing life from an eternal perspective beginning with acknowledging God. [Prov 3:5-6]
In Chapter 3, the Preacher revealed God’s eternal purpose by using the illustration of “time.” It gave the reader a beautiful picture of God’s sovereign order. In chapters 4-6, he says something has gone awry and shows us how sin has brought about chaos. The evidence is the tears of the oppressed that have no comforter. But, in God’s eternal plan, He sent His Son to be our comforter!
A simple piece of advice: two are better than one because they have a good reward for their labor. Who can you praise for their help? Another piece of advice: rivalry does not produce lasting friendship. Instead, it creates enemies.
The words of Jesus come back to us. Want to know God’s eternal purpose for your life? Hunger and Thirst for His Word, and you will be satisfied.[Matt 5]
Ge 27 to 29: Isaac and Rebekah were praying parents, yet they seemed to have become impatient in their old age. Much like Sara and Abraham, they decided that God wasn’t doing things on “their” timetable, or surely God had forgotten the “plan.” Jacob is to receive the blessing according to the prophecy yet the seeds of deception which began in the Garden are still alive and well. “Isaac loved Esau…but Rebekah loved Jacob.” [Gen 25:28]That set the stage for the enemy to continue his web of deception and lies; hoodwinking us into thinking this is really what we should do. “Is it really true that God said…” [Gen 3:1] And so, Isaac and Rebekah took matters into their own hands. Surely God must remember that the firstborns are to receive the family and covenantal blessing, right? There is a warning here: God’s plans are higher than ours. [Is 55:9] Isaac’s plan to deceive will soon be circumvented by Rebekah’s, and the pattern will continue for years to come. What a tangled web we weave when we first set out to deceive.
How often are you and I, like Isaac and Rebekah, saying yes to God but later thinking God needs our help to complete the plan. How easily Satan can deceive us to follow his plan and not God’s. Isaiah reminds us that God’s plans are superior to ours. He tests us to see if we will wholly trust both the timetable and the plan! [Is 55:9-12]
Genesis 22 to 24 When you face a test of your faith and find yourself wavering, return to the story of Abraham. God in His providence tested Abraham’s faith over and over, yet he failed—how like us! Finally, God gave Abraham the hardest test ever; go and sacrifice your only son as a burnt offering on Mt. Moriah—a three-day journey from where he was. We do not see Abraham questioning nor asking for wisdom to understand the why’s. Abraham was not like the waves of the sea as they ebb and flow. [James 1:6] Instead, he was like Paul’s description: steadfast and immovable. [1Cor 15:58] After many failures, Abraham’s faith could trust in Jehovah Jireh (the God who provides), and thus “he was ready to offer up his only son.” [Heb 11:17]
As Abraham and Isaac and the servants traveled, we wonder what his thoughts were—but the scriptures are silent. Instead, Abraham faithfully went about his business as if today was not any different than yesterday. That is how God orchestrates our days; today will be much the same as yesterday and tomorrow. The only inkling Abraham had of what lay ahead was what he told Isaac: “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” [Gen 22:8]
Do we trust God in the hard and easy times as Abraham did?
He is a model for us in trusting God to provide all of our needs.