Warnings from the Minor Prophets – part 1

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ms_minor_prophetsIn the final sections of the Old Testament we find a collection of smaller prophetic writings (the Minor Prophets). Each Prophet speaks into a particular situation, yet all have the same message: Repent or bad things are going to happen. Each serves as a warning to God’s people of what is lying on their doorstep waiting to pounce. This message isn’t just reserved for those people back then – for Peter tells us the exact same thing in his first letter to the Christians:

“Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour.” – 1 Pet 5:8 AMP

The English language of the Bible speaks of God bringing the destruction upon His own people – but here Peter tells us that it is actually the devil who is doing it. The reality is that the devil has no power beyond what God allows him to have. Sin causes God to simply withdraw His hedge of protection from off a situation – which allows the devil the freedom to come in and destroy. That is what is happening during the OT Prophetic times.

The Prophet Nahum is writing in between two major situations in the late 6th century B.C. The first is the fall of the Egyptian city Thebes to the Assyrians in 663 B.C. (If you remember – it is the Assyrians who would capture the northern kingdom of Israel about 100 years earlier). The second major event that is about to take place during Nahum’s ministry is the unimaginable fall of the Assyrian capital, Nineveh in 612 B.C. At the time Assyria was dominating the world, yet an alliance between the rising Babylonian empire and the Medes would bring an end to that dynasty in dramatic fashion. The capital city of Nineveh was a modern marvel to behold. Its mighty power extended for an entire century. Archaeological discoveries have turned up massive walls 8 miles in circumference, an elaborate water system, a huge palace, and a royal library which held more than 20,000 clay tablets!

It was to this massive, modern city that Jonah was sent by God with a message of salvation. His resistance led to a visit with Moby Dick, with his eventual obedience resulting in a revival in the city. Known as the sister book to Jonah, Nahum (about 100 years later) reveals that this revival was short-lived. Nahum wanders the streets of Jerusalem like a crazy man, prophesying the coming demise of Nineveh, that great city. (One can only imagine the awkward looks and giggles which came his way on the streets).

During about the same time, while Jeremiah, Zephaniah, and Nahum all warn Judah of the impending disaster, the prophetic book of Habbakuk joins the fray. Written as a prayer/conversation between Habbakuk and God, the prophet asks God why He (as a righteous God) is not punishing the sinful people of Judah (Hab 1:2-3). It isn’t that Habbukuk wanted the people to be destroyed, but his love for God and His Law was so strong that he began to wonder why the many warnings being proclaimed by the prophets were not coming to pass.

God’s answer to Habbakuk is that judgment will be coming through a people called the Chaldeans. These are a people group who would join forces with the Babylonians when they invade Judah in 587 B.C. God tells Habbakuk:

“For behold, I am rousing up the Chaldeans, that bitter and impetuous nation who march through the breadth of the earth to take possession of dwelling places that do not belong to them.” – Hab 1:6 AMP

Again – it isn’t God who is causing this evil, bitter nation to destroy Judah… He just isn’t stopping them this time. They are being motivated and empowered by the devil, and the people’s sin opens the door.

As we have seen many times on our journey through the Old Testament, sin brings death. Both Nahum and Habbakuk have joined a long list of prophets whom God sends to His people in a last-ditch attempt to get them to repent from their wickedness and return to the Blessing of the Lord and His protection.   Their refusal to heed the warnings is what leads to their demise.

That demise is still felt today… and the warnings are still coming…

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

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The Message from Micah

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MicahDuring the tumultuous times between 735-586 B.C. the Israelites were overshadowed by strong neighbors who were building major empires. Assyria to the north, Egypt to the south, and eventually Babylon to the east would all rise up as serious contenders for world domination and threaten Israel’s short-lived sovereignty. During that time, God raised up several prophets who began to call His people back from their ungodly lifestyles to repentance. Attributing these external threats as the direct result of wayward national sin, the prophets stood on street corners in the major cities and cried out against the leaders of the nation to return to who they once were under King David/Solomon. Back then the nation was relatively holy and prosperous, but now things were looking quite grim. Sort of reminds us of modern America in many ways. We find ourselves remembering a day in the past when the nation was young and seemingly blessed by the Lord. But sin and lawlessness have taken over, leaving a suspecting future.

One of those prophets called to warn the people was a country man named Micah. Like Amos, he was not a religious leader or politician – but rather an everyday farmer from Moresheth-gath (1:14), a tiny village located about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem, in the Judean foothills. Like most farmers of that day, he would have probably owned a small plot of land on which he grew crops and fed his family. As well, Micah probably had heard tales of the terror coming against their sister nation Samaria, to the north, at the hands of Assyria. So Micah hears God tell him to travel to Jerusalem and begin to warn them about what is going to happen, should they not repent.

Micah brought a message of doom to the people of Jerusalem. He spoke of times of terror, and a great battle that would commence at the end of the world between Israel and the kingdoms of the anti-Christ. While much of what he prophesied applies to things that will happen AFTER Jesus returns – many others fit the bill for what was currently happening in Micah’s day (as well as our own). For example – check out this indictment against the leaders of Israel:

“Hear this, I pray you, you heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who abhor and reject justice and pervert all equity, Who build up Zion with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity.” Mic 3:9-10 AMP

For Micah, the leaders were to blame for the misdirection of the people. Much of what he says is a direct accusation/warning for them. In one of his most famous statements, Micah clearly spells out what the people are missing:

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God?” Mic 6:8 AMP

Micah’s message served as a warning for God’s people to stop the pointless rituals and “church” that they had come to perfect, and instead seek the heart of the Lord. This heart will reflect in honest living, humility, caring for others, etc.

Yet, within this negative prospect there are still signs of God’s love and mercy. Mingled within his messages of doom, Micah reveals a song of hope. Should the people repent, then God will relent and save them from this threat. In fact, according to the leaders in Jeremiah’s day – that is exactly what happens. Like Micah, Jeremiah brought a warning to the city streets – a message which angered these self-righteous people. In a fit of rage they drag Jeremiah out to kill him, yet a voice of reason calms the crowd:

“Then certain of the elders of the land arose and said to all the assembly of the people, Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah and said to all the people of Judah, Thus says the Lord of hosts: Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps [of ruins], and the mountain of the house [of the Lord—Mount Moriah, on which stands the temple, shall become covered not with buildings, but] like a densely wooded height.  Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put [Micah] to death? Did he not [reverently] fear the Lord and entreat the Lord? And did not the Lord relent and reverse the decision concerning the evil which He had pronounced against them? But [here] we are thinking of committing what will be a great evil against ourselves.” – Jer 26:17-19 AMP

My friends, God has not changed, nor has the deadly cost of sin. It is His grace which protects us, and His blessing which treats us as we do not truly deserve. As in the days of Micah – so we stand in a nation that has turned its back on God (even reacting in anger towards His people, as in times past). BUT there is a hope! Jesus has come! Sin and death are not the victor! The future is not one of doom – as the Word has already paid the price!

Join with me in praying for our friends/family/neighbors who are currently blinded by sin. Pray for peace – pray for repentance – and like Micah, speak the Truth with boldness!

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

How did Jonah live in a fish?

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jonahTypically when someone attempts to discredit or disprove the truthfulness of God’s Word they target the story of Jonah as their evidence. They emphatically state that scientists claim that it would be impossible for a fish to swallow a man whole. They also assert that if a man could be swallowed whole – there is absolutely no way he could live inside the belly of that fish for 3 days. Therefore – the Bible is a fake.

(To which I throw up my hands in surrender, “You got me! Guess it is all made up and you have exposed it!”)

Usually, modern people with that perspective have read very little, studied even less, and have already made up their minds to whether it is true or not. Case closed. No need for further discussion.

But for those of us who want to understand what the Bible REALLY means, these objections to the story of Jonah do bring up some stuff to think about. I’m mean, while it MAY be possible that fish exist out in the deep depths of the ocean that are big enough to swallow a grown man (such as a whale), it definitely seems crazy to picture that guy living inside the whales belly for 3 days and nights!

Uninformed thoughts like that typically will spin until they ‘figure out’ that the Bible must be man-made junk.

But the problem is that the Bible never says that Jonah LIVED inside the whale for 3 days/nights. In fact – it says he died there.

Jonah had been told by God to travel to Nineveh (the capital of Assyria) and share the truth of God’s love to the people before they were destroyed. Assyria was a sworn enemy of Israel – so obviously Jonah did not want those people saved. So he disobeyed God and ran. He boards a ship that begins to experience trouble in a major storm… caused by Jonah’s disobedience.

Jonah volunteers to sacrifice himself – be thrown overboard – to save the entire innocent crew.

Chapter 2 deals with the part that takes place inside the fish’s belly.

First – it says that Jonah prayed “from the fish’s belly” (2:1). (Obviously he was physically inside at this point).

Then notice what Jonah says, “I cried out in my distress to the Lord and He heard me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice” (2:2). The Hebrew word Sheol is a word for the region of the dead – Hades.

Jonah (recounting later) says he was in the belly of Sheol when he cried out to God.

Then he describes being in the ocean – sinking – drowning – out of God’s sight.

“The waters compassed me about, even to the soul…” (2:5). This is a Biblical expression used to imply death (Psalm 69:1, Jer 4:10). The Amplified version of this verse says “even to [the extinction of life]…

Furthermore, in the next verse Jonah says “the earth with its bars closed behind me forever” (2:6). This is another Hebraic expression regarding death used in Job 38:17 and Isaiah 38:10. The gates of life have closed for Jonah… As he was losing consciousness, “When my soul fainted within me…” (2:7)- Jonah remembered the faithfulness of the Lord and cried out for mercy and salvation (rescue) (2:9).

So the actual scriptures draw a picture of Jonah sinking into the deep ocean – drowning – being swallowed by a big fish – and calling out to God for mercy with his final moments from within the belly of the fish. At his repentance, God resurrects Jonah and has the fish vomit him back up on shore after 3 days/nights.

Jonah didn’t live inside the belly of a fish for 3 days – he died – was swallowed by a fish – then repented and God miraculously resurrected him back to life and sent him on the mission He originally gave him.

Now the reason these details are so important is because Jesus later says…

“For even as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, Someone more and greater than Jonah is here!” – Matthew 12:40-41 AMP

Jesus would liken His own 3 days to that of Jonah. If Jonah didn’t actually die and get resurrected, then neither did Jesus! This was an argument in the 2nd century that was disputed by Christians and it needs to still be disputed today!

So when some acne-faced atheist tries to throw this tiresome argument against Scripture into your face… pull out your Bible and educate them… in love.  🙂

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

The Unlikely Fate of Petra in Obadiah

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PetraOne of the smallest of the OT prophetic books at only 21 verses, Obadiah brings a clear succinct message to the people of the nation of Edom. Edom had been an enemy of Israel since her beginning, even standing by with a grin on their faces as Jerusalem was sacked by the Babylonians. For this (and other grave sins), God sent the Prophet Obadiah to pronounce His judgment upon the nation of Edom.

Edom was known for many things, but possibly the most infamous was the city of Petra. Hewn out of solid rock, this desert fortress was considered by many to be impenetrable. To understand a bit about this famous stronghold, check out this brief description by Finis Dakes:

“Petra, the rock hewn stronghold capital of Edom, is mentioned several times in Scripture as the rock. Today it is referred to as the silent city of the forgotten past and the rose-colored city, half as old as time. It lies halfway between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba. It has one weird approach through a deep rock cleft 6,000 ft long. Its temples, numbering nearly 1000, cut into the rock of the great cliffs surrounding the whole city; it’s high places, courts, libation basins, and altars where the ancients worshipped; and its amazing color of all shades of red are exceedingly interesting. It has places of defense where one man could hold against an army. It has over 1000 monuments showing the influences of several races; an open theater seating 6000; many runlets, aqueducts, basins, reservoirs, and cisterns where water has been stored in times of siege; and several springs supplying water for the city.

For centuries Petra was a rich caravan city where merchandise of many nations was brought in and taken out by caravans to all parts of the earth. Goods were brought for storage in Petra, and re-routed to Arabia, Africa, India, and other lands. The city was so important that the Romans made two roads to tap its wealth. When Rome fell, its doom was sealed and Petra was abandoned save for a few desert tribesman. It passed unnoticed by the civilized world for more than 1000 years. In 1812, John Lewis Burckhardt, disguised as a Bedouin sheik, reached it and returned to tell of its mysteries. It had then become sacred to the Arabs and danger menaced any infidel who approached, until the country was open to travel by the British in World War I.”

For the Edomites, this strategic city was a sense of pride. That is why Obadiah declares, “The pride of your heart has deceived you, you dweller in the refuges of the rock, whose habitation is high, who says in his heart, Who can bring me down to the ground?” (Obadiah 1:3). As Obadiah prophesied, much to the shock of those alive in that day, Petra “The Rock” would eventually become a byword. “As you have done (to Israel), it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head” (Obadiah 1:15).

It can be very tempting to ignore the Word of the Lord when it seems to be delayed in coming to pass, but let me encourage you to not follow the fateful path of those who have walked before us. God’s Word will be completely fulfilled in its due time. What appears rock-solid and secure one day may very well be an abandoned tourist attraction the next.

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”Isaiah 40:8 AMP

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

Seeking God in Amos 5

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SeekAs we have progressed through these various prophetic voices, there have been a few things we find in common. They all possess an urgency about them – warning (even pleading) with God’s people to turn (repent) back to the Lord – away from their idols and evil lifestyles. Using whatever means they can (songs, poems, dirges, stories) the Prophets many times put themselves at risk in order to get their message out.

Jeremiah said the message burned within him like a “fire in his bones” (Jer 20:9) and he just HAD to get it out or he would burst!

Yet, one major difference with Amos is that he wasn’t a Priest or a religious guy (like Isaiah, Ezekiel) – he was just an average Joe! The Bible says that he was a “herdsman” (Amos 1:1) – that is akin to him being a blue-collar worker. He was just an average, everyday dude who worked hard and did right.

But then God stirred something inside of him…

Amos begins to declare a warning to the northern 10-tribes… (obviously this was before Assyria invaded). He tells them that judgment is coming… they had better turn around and start walking in a different direction… a cliff was before them… things were going to get really ugly (paraphrase mine).

And just like the many Prophets we have heard from already… this message of impending doom was sprinkled with God’s heart to forgive – bless – prosper.

“Seek me and you may live.” (Amos 5:4)
“Seek the Lord and you may live.” (Amos 5:6)
“Seek good, and not evil, that you may live, and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said.” (Amos 5:14)

Three times God’s heart comes out in the middle of a warning. His heart has always been this way – it hasn’t changed even today. God wants His people to be in fellowship and relationship with Him. He wants to shower them with goodness and The Blessing.

(God doesn’t change… but we do).

The word “seek” is an action word.

In the Old Testament it is baqash (darash) – which means “to seek out by any method, specifically in worship and prayer”.

“Then you will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” – Jer 29:13 AMP

“If you seek Him [inquiring for and of Him, craving Him as your soul’s first necessity], He will be found by you; but if you [become indifferent and] forsake Him, He will forsake you.” – 2 Chron 15:2 AMP

In the New Testament, the Greek word used is zeteo, which means “to worship, desire, endeavor, inquire”.

Jesus used it in Matthew 7:7“Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives; and he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, [the door] will be opened.”

The main point of the verb “seek” is that it involves continuous action on our part. It isn’t just going to church or tossing up a prayer when things are really bad. The one who seeks God is one who is an active participant in the life of the Kingdom. He/She is consistent in church – obeys God in the tithe – spends daily time in God’s Word/Prayer/Worship.

Although those things do not save us… they are a part of seeking Him.
Without them – we may make it to heaven – but the journey won’t be as sweet!

 
Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK