Isaiah 28-30

Because these people approach Me with their mouths to honor Me with lip service - yet their hearts are far from Me, and their worship consists of man-made rules learned by rote

As we turn back to Isaiah in our reading, we read about the judgments pronounced upon Jerusalem and the surrounding nations. At the end of Isaiah 27, God had given the Israelites a picture of their hope – to return to Jerusalem. However, in Isaiah 28, we turn back to the reason why the Israelites had to be removed from the promised land in the first place. 

When I was in high school, every student that drove had to take a driver’s education class before they could get their parking pass. I was standing pressed against the glass at the DMV the day I turned 15 (the age we could get our learner’s permit), and I knew that I would do whatever it took to be able to drive to school as soon as I could. Along with the videos of car crashes and the several hours driving with the instructor, one activity we had to do was put on a pair of beer goggles to show the effects of driving under the influence. With the vision of someone who had way too many beers, we were supposed to catch a tennis ball. As you can imagine, almost all of us dropped the ball as we stumbled and swayed with the goggles on our face. With our vision clouded, there was no way that we were able to complete the task that we were given. 

We’ve been looking at the effects of idolatry over the previous days. This was not the Israelites only sin though. In Isaiah 28, God turns to focus on Ephraim’s drunkards and says woe to them. These priests “stagger because of wine and stumble under the influence of beer. They are muddled in their visions, they stumble in their judgments. Indeed, all their tables are covered with vomit; there is no place without a stench” (Isaiah 28:7-8). This presents a dire picture of priests turned alcoholics, which means they can’t do much good for anyone. We know how alcoholism and drunkenness itself can be dangerous, but what is so striking to me in this description is the way that it shows a parallel to all sin. All sin clouds our vision and judgments. All sin realigns our priorities. Ultimately, all sin separates us from God and leaves our lives defiled. 

When we are living under the influence of sin, we miss out on God’s purpose for our lives. The priests in this chapter were supposed to teach the people how to seek after God. Instead, they stumbled over their words while they instructed and caused their people to stumble in their everyday walk with God. Where do you see the effects of sin goggles in your life? Where can you take off the sin in your life so that you can have a clearer vision for how to serve God better? 

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Isaiah 28-30.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Isaiah 31-34– as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

Hosea 8-14

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you_ sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Reading through the prophets can be difficult. Just like the story of Gomer that we read yesterday, we may find ourselves wanting to reach through the pages across the span of time and just whip these people and nations back into shape. Because of our hindsight, we think (arrogantly) that we would have made better choices if we walked in the shoes of our ancestors. The Israelites downfall is that they always seemed to fall prey to idolatry, though that idolatry existed in many forms. Unfortunately, like we saw yesterday, we are quick to worship those same idols in different forms.

If we look back to the birth of the Israelites as a distinct set apart nation, we return to the infamous scene with the golden calf in Exodus 32. The Israelites had the choice to follow the word of God or follow the gods of the surrounding nations. While Moses was receiving the law, they chose to worship the golden calf. Hundreds of years later, the calf returned in 1 Kings 12:28-30. King Jeroboam of Israel created two golden calves and set up places to worship them, going directly against the laws of Moses that all of Israel has received. The Israelites had continued to worship the calf through Hosea’s time as we see in Hosea 8:5-6: “Your calf-idol is rejected, Samaria. My anger burns against them. How long will they be incapable of innocence? For this thing is from Israel – a craftsman made it, and it is not God. The calf of Samaria will be smashed to bits.” For hundreds of years the Israelites worshipped the calf, and because of it, they started to resemble the thing that they worshipped. In fact, we see the qualities of the cow come out in the Israelites in Hosea 4:16 where it says, “For Israel is as obstinate as a stubborn cow. Can the LORD shepherd them like a lamb in an open meadow?” They had held the cow as an idol for so long in their life that they started to imitate that. This imitation led them directly away from becoming the people that God wanted them to be. 

Israel thought that they knew God and were seeking after him (Hos. 7:16, 8:2-3), but they were really seeking after their own hand-made idols. A life that seeks after God cannot be categorized as lustful, greedy, selfish, or prideful. If our life looks like that, we have begun to imitate those idols that we may follow. A life that follows after God will be full of love, joy, peace, and the rest of the fruits of the Spirit. If we follow after God and not idols, we will seek his righteousness all of our days. 

So, ask yourself: Who or what are you worshipping? Who or what are you imitating? 

“Sow righteousness for yourselves and reap faithful love; break up your unplowed ground. It is time to seek the LORD until he comes and sends righteousness on you like the rain.” ~ Hosea 10:12

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Hosea 8-14.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Isaiah 28-30– as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

 

Don’t Forget – Give Thanks

FREE THEME WEEK – Psalms!

Psalm 150 6

This week we’ve been looking at seven different types of psalms, musical prayers that have been used for thousands of years first by the people of Israel and then by the Church as part of our worship and devotional life.  The first two types of psalms we looked at were wisdom and royal psalms.  The second two types of psalms were lament and imprecatory, these were a bit more challenging- not all of the psalms are about happy themes.

Today we are going to look at much happier psalms, the psalms of thanksgiving.  These are, perhaps, some of the better known psalms as they speak joyfully in praise of God.

The very last psalm, ends the psalms in a resounding crescendo of praise and thanksgiving”:

Psalm 150

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

 

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  These psalms speak for themselves about the joy of worshipping our great and powerful God.  God is worthy of our praise and thanksgiving.

Romans 1:21 gives the consequences of one who fails to offer to God the thanksgiving God deserves: “ For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  How tragic to fail to give to God the glory and thanks he so richly deserves.  A number of Biblical theologians see in this passage Paul’s reference to the rebellion of Adam and Eve in the garden, who failed to show thanks to God for the good gifts of creation and chose instead to listen to the voice of the serpent calling them to aspire to be like god.  Failure to give thanks to God is the original sin of humanity.  It may also be referencing Israel’s original story of the Exodus.  After God frees Israel from slavery in Egypt, they enter the wilderness, and while God is giving his instructions to Moses on Mt. Sinai, his people are down below making a golden calf to worship.  They trade the worship of God for idols made by human hands.  When we choose to worship anything in place of the one true God we are guilty of idolatry.

Throughout the psalms we are called to reject the original sin of not giving thanks to God and to worship God alone.  Worship is one reason that the Church gathers regularly.  We are not to forsake gathering as the Church for the purpose of worshiping God (Hebrews 10:24-25).  The psalms provide a rich and extensive songbook for us to use in our worship, both as a Church when we gather and in our times of private worship.  I read the psalms everyday as it helps me to join that several thousand year old congregation that joins together to worship and give thanks to God.

-Jeff Fletcher

 

Miracles and Praise

Acts 12 9

Acts 12

Acts 12:1-19
“but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening: he thought he was seeing a vision.”      Acts 12:9 “Pinch me! I must be dreaming.” We are not so different from Peter. When miraculous things happen, we doubt that they are real. When we finally accept the reality, we make ourselves crazy trying to explain it rationally.
I have had many moments where God has worked in a miraculous way. And I was so thankful for those moments at that time. But then those fade and you begin to question whether that was God or if it was just you hoping it was God. We all have those doubts. We have to ask – do we believe it’s God…do we want it to be God?  We all have those moments where God is speaking to us and we have to be able to recognize His voice.  The more we know God the more we are able to recognize miracles for what they are. God working in our lives.
Mighty God of Miracles, we confess that we try to explain your miracles rather than enjoy them. Help us to accept that you use all of your creation including other people to work your miracles. Open our hearts to your generous gifts and use us to deliver your miracles to others.
Next time something amazing happens to you or someone you know, don’t try to explain it away.  Accept it as a miraculous gift from God. Give Him the Glory!
Acts 12:19-25
On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. But the word of God continued to increase and spread.” Acts 12:21-24
In Matthew 22:37, the first and greatest commandment for Christians is ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’.  Likewise, the 10 Commandments warn us against idolatry.  In today’s passage, Paul talks about Herod’s meeting with the people of Tyre and Sidon.  Once Herod won their approval, they praised and idolized him as a god. Giving another the praise God deserves is turning away from Him who gave you life and a way to salvation, including the death of His Son.  What more must God do to prove how much He loves you and deserves your love in return? We can even lose sight of His authority by relying too heavily on a fellow Christian for guidance. Give all your praise and honor to Him.
-Andy Cisneros

Graphic Material

Ezekiel 5-9

ezekiel 5 14

Monday, March 20

This portion of Ezekiel is, admittedly, difficult to read.  It’s a pretty graphic account of God impending judgment against the city of Jerusalem and his people, Israel.  God tells Ezekiel to shave his head and beard.  This would have been an act of mourning for most people, but it was double disturbing for Ezekiel, since he was a priest and normally forbidden from shaving his head or beard.  Ezekiel was told to burn, take a sword to, and scatter his cut hair.  This was to symbolize what was to happen to Israel.  A few hairs were kept back, symbolic of the remnant who would not be destroyed.

God accuses his people, Israel, the chosen nation, of being worse than the other nations.  They broke the law more than the nations that did not have the law.  God was bringing his judgment against His own people.  The description of the siege almost defies comprehension, including cannibalism of both parents and children.  This was to serve as a warning to the other nations: if this is how God treats his own people for their idolatry, beware of what he will do to you.

In Ezekiel six God makes it clear that their judgement is upon them because of their idolatry. However, there is a remnant that will be spared and live in captivity and will come to repentance.

In Ezekiel seven, a special emphasis is made regarding their idolatrous attachment to gold and silver.  This wealth that they turned to and fashioned into idols will be unable to save them from the coming judgment.  All the money in the world can’t save you from judgment.

In Chapter eight Ezekiel has a vision of the temple in Jerusalem.  This includes the “Idol of jealousy” which we discover is the pagan god Tammuz.  Tammuz was the Sumerian god of food and vegetation.  At the summer solstice there was a period of mourning as the people saw the shortening of days and the approaching drought.  Sacrifices were made to Tammuz at the door of the Jerusalem Temple.  This was an absolute abomination to Israel’s God, YHWH as He made it clear that He alone was to be worshipped as God (see Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

In Chapter Nine an angel is sent out to put a mark on all of the people of the city who did not commit idolatry and worship Tammuz.  They would be spared.  But then all those who did not receive a mark would be destroyed.  This is reminiscent of the story of Exodus, when the doorposts of the Israelites were to be marked with the blood of the sacrificial lamb, and those with the mark were spared their firstborn sons dying when the Angel of Death passed over their houses.  It also points to the future (See Revelation 13) when the beast will cause people to have a mark on their forehead or they would not be able to buy or sell.  This is contrasted with those in Revelation 14 who have the name of God and of the lamb on their foreheads.

God is a God of love and mercy.  God has provided a means for us to be rescued from the consequences of sin.  There is a way for each of us to be spared the final judgment of God that is coming.  Jesus Christ, the lamb of God is the only means by which we can escape judgment.  Along with God’s mercy is His holiness.  God will not allow sin and rebellion to continue on earth forever.  A day of judgment is coming for all the earth just as it did for the nation of Israel.  God tolerated their sin for only so long, and then came the time for judgment.  Mercifully, God spared those who repented by placing His mark upon them.  God has been tolerating sinful rebellion on earth, but a day is coming when He will destroy sin and sinners who have not repented and turned away from their sins and turned to him through Jesus Christ.  Ezekiel’s harsh imagery should remind us that we must not forget that God’s wrath is coming from which we all need to escape, and we need to warn others.  This won’t make us popular, but doing God’s will is seldom popular among the rebellious.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

 

(Photo Credit: http://w3ace.com/stardust/)

The End of a Wicked Woman & The Life of a Flawed Man who Does God’s Work (2 Kings 9-11)

Tuesday, November 8

the-death-of-jezebel

Jezebel’s end is probably not one of the stories you learned in your preschool Sunday School class; though it’s gruesomeness makes it a winner for middle school boys for sure.  But what is most important about this gory story of a wicked woman being thrown from a window, trampled by horses and eaten by dogs is that it completely followed the prophecy given to Elijah (I Kings 21:23).  Also back in I Kings 21:25 we read that “There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife”.  Not only did she inspire her husband’s evil – she also killed the Lord’s prophets and provided for the 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah and promoted witchcraft (1 Kings 18:4, 1 Kings 18:19, 2 Kings 9:22).  She was one unGodly woman.  How sad that when I googled her name -I learned that Jezebel is now the name of an online magazine championing “celebrities, sex, feminism, and issues related to woman’s empowerment” (any guesses who they are rooting for in today’s election?)  And what a role model Jezebel provides for evil.  We definitely live in an age that “Calls evil good and good evil”  (Isaiah 5:20), but then so did Isaiah, and Elijah, and so many others from the time of Eve’s first sin.   We can gain hope in knowing that even while the evil Jezebel was reigning and seemingly “in control” God was still at work in so many ways (such as the Baal vs God showdown on Mt Carmel) and through so many lives (Elijah and Elisha to name a few) .  AND – all the time he was orchestrating and planning what would become the fall of Jezebel – and the feeding of the dogs.  Evil will not last forever.

The other very interesting character in today’s reading is Jehu – chosen by God and anointed by his servant – and so far from perfect – and not just his mad driving was in question.  Jehu though becomes the one to fulfill God’s plan to kill the rest of Ahab’s large family.  And he does this job well.  He also deceptively gathers the prophets of Baal – in order to kill them all.  He tore down the temple of Baal and it became used as a latrine.  He does MUCH to stem the tide of evil idolatry: “You (Jehu) have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do” (2 Kings 10:30) – HOWEVER, he himself “was not careful to keep the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart.” (2 Kings 10:31).

Any parallels to today?  I think there are many.  Don’t give up on God when you see evil prevailing.  There will be a day when evil is stomped out.  Until then – fight against it.  Watch carefully to see who and what you are following and how it lines up with God’s laws and expectations rather than with whatever appears to be socially acceptable, or from the ruling government at the time.  And, remember, even those who do not keep the law of the Lord can be agents to do his work.

May we be wise as we seek to follow Him today,

Marcia Railton

A Second Chance Squandered (I Kings 13-15)

Tuesday, November 1

kings-of-israel-pic
written by: Melissa New
It is amazing how kind our Father is. Previously, we saw that Solomon deliberately disobeyed God and because of his sin, which in turn led many others to sin by worshipping idols, God did what He said He would do. He would “tear the kingdom away from you (Solomon) and give it to one of your servants.” (I Kings 11:11) He sent the prophet Ahijah to tell Jeroboam of some spectacular news for his future.  God was making a new covenant promise for Jeroboam! Solomon broke his covenant promise from God, and now Jeroboam is given the opportunity to enjoy a covenant promise. Could he learn from the mistakes he saw Solomon make? If he would be wholeheartedly devoted to God, as David was, then Jeroboam could have the benefits of a similar promise!
We find in these chapters that Jeroboam’s god was “power.”  He was unwilling to risk losing any of it. He didn’t trust the promise of God. He thought he could better rule the people of Israel without God. So he made golden calves for the Israelites to worship. He led the people into idolatry. But God gives Jeroboam a second chance! Just as he warned Solomon, he sent a man of God to tell of his demise.  Jeroboam’s life would come to a nasty end because of his sin.  He didn’t listen to the man of God even though he proved that what God says comes true. In chapter 13 we see that another prophet learns that what the “man of God” said was, indeed, true, but Jeroboam would not “turn from his evil ways.” In chapter 14 we see that Ahijah no longer has good news for Jeroboam. His prophecy for Jeroboam is dishonorable death and a future dispersing of the Israelites.
The legacy of Jeroboam is wickedness. Israel will have 20 kings until they are taken over by Assyria, and all of them will be BAD. Many times Christians think that a little sin in their lives only affects themselves. And it’s true that leaders, like Jeroboam, have a lot more influence, but sin has consequences for any who see or are around it. In some cases, it could have an impact on people not even born yet.

Faithfulness in Spite of the Faithless (Judges 9-11)

Monday, October 3

cycle-of-sin

Shelby Upton

In Judges there is a reoccurring theme of Israel being faithless, turning to false gods, running into hardships and crying out to God.  Then the judge intercedes for them, they turn back to God and he takes them back once more.
We  see this scenario happening once again in Judges 10. Things are quiet and faithful with two judges for about 40 years until Israel turns away from God, again. God then gives them over to the Philistines and Ammonites. Then they cry out to God once again, recognizing their sin and begging God to deliver them.
I see this situation in my own life. When things are going really well and I forget to keep God as my focus and I let things like relationships, entertainment, my career, my possessions become idols in my life.  Inevitably something happens and I need God to deliver me.
The Israelites then turn from their idolatry and worship God. Even though God is angry with the Israelites He is burdened by their suffering and then does deliver them from their misery.
Repentance is key in this scenario.  We all struggle with sin and losing God as our focus.  We need to learn from Israel’s mistake of turning from our faith at all but when sin does creep in we know that God is a loving God and he will forgive us when we repent because even when we are faithless he remains faithful.
2 Chronicles 7:14
“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”
you-may-choose-your-sin                 sin-always-takes-you