Joel 1-3: Minor Prophet, Major Message

12 Even now— this is the Lord’s declaration— turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. 13 Tear your hearts, not just your clothes, and return to the Lord your God. For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in faithful love, and He relents from sending disaster. Joel 2:12-13 (HCSB)

Today we’re going to read the book of Joel (hey, that’s my name!). It is one of the shortest books in the Old Testament, so I’ll keep my thoughts on it brief. It was written as a wake up call to God’s people. As you’ve been reading through the Prophets, it should have been quite apparent that God wasn’t the happiest about the actions of His people. That’s why we have this particular section of scripture; if Israel hadn’t messed up so bad, God wouldn’t have had to tell them so. Joel doesn’t say much different than the other Prophets; he is just rehashing the same message because apparently, Israel still hasn’t learned its lesson.
Here’s the condensed version of the message: you’ve sinned and made God angry, but He loves you and wants you to live, so turn away from your wickedness. 


This message, which was proclaimed to the Jews first, is just as relevant today for us as it was then for them. Only today we have the added part: God loved you so much He sent His only begotten son so you can live eternally (John 3:16). We still live in nations full of wickedness, we still raise idols to a status reserved only for Yahweh, we still do wrong when we know what’s right, and we still let the ungodly have undue influence over us. The words spoken through the Prophets to the people of Israel still hold value for us, and I hope we will do a better job heeding them than the original recipients. 


I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through Joel and the last chapters of Ezekiel with me this week.

– Joel Fletcher

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joel 1-3

Tomorrow we will begin the book of Daniel (chapters 1-3) as we continue seeking God on our

The Holy and the Common

Ezekiel 42-43

Why is it that older churches and cathedrals seem to have an aura about them that is missing from newer Christian constructions? There is a special reverence that is shown to these historical places of worship, but why? They appear to be more “holy” than modern church structures–are they really or is it just perception?

In our reading today, we get more details about the temple complex being shown to Ezekiel. As I mentioned yesterday, one intention for the prophet in giving specifications to all of Israel was so they could imagine what it would be like. Another reason, which flows from first is to draw attention to God’s holiness and, in turn, Israel’s sinfulness. But why would imagining the temple lead to recognizing sin? This question and the ones in the above paragraph are tied together.

The idea of holiness in the Bible is connected with being different, set apart, or sacred. The God of the Bible is called holy; He is without sin, He is all powerful, He is worthy of worship and adoration. Yahweh is distinct from His creation. Though humans are made in His image, they have sins which separate them from God, showing Him to be holy and people common. When humans encounter God’s holiness, it leaves them in awe of His majesty and with awareness of their own sinfulness (see Isaiah 6). When you see a dirty object–even one you think is clean–held up to something that is flawless, every little blemish is revealed. That is what happens when humans meet God.

When we see older churches or cathedrals, we are looking at something different, uncommon, a building designed to be set apart from other constructions. Older places of worship are usually taller, more distinctive, and, dare I say, were built by people more reverent than us. They have brilliant stained glass, magnificent architecture, and invoke a deep sense of beauty. Modern churches, by contrast, aren’t much taller than most middle-class housing and, in most cities, are located every few blocks. They look dull in comparison, with nothing extraordinary to offer. Older churches appear more holy because they stand out more, while modern ones seem all too common.

Older churches and cathedrals were built as the place where humans go to encounter God, much like Jews viewed the temple. Many modern Christians understand they don’t have go to a building to worship God, but for most of Christian history the church building has been the place where followers of Christ have gathered to worship their creator, which is why those older churches were so grand. They wanted the building to reflect the holiness of the God they worshiped. God’s holiness causes people to recognize their own sinfulness. It’s no wonder that the dulling down of Christian architecture has mirrored a more laissez-faire attitude towards sin.

What should we do then? Should we go back to designing and building grand places of worship?

No. When Jesus left the curtain torn, the separation between the holy God and sinful humanity was broken. This means striving after good works and the sacrificing of rams and bulls is not the way to achieve holiness. Instead, we put our faith (believe) in the one responsible for ripping the veil in half and offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God. Because of the righteousness of the Messiah, we can be holy and the spirit of God can dwell in us, as we live as the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16).

God’s holiness still causes us to recognize our own sin, but we don’t have to go to a grand building to see it. We encounter it through scripture, reading about God Himself or His son who reveals so much about Him. We see it in nature, looking through binoculars, telescopes, or with the naked eye. We see it when the Church (the people, not the building) acts as it was intended to. Thankfully God’s holiness doesn’t just reveal our sinfulness, but His love for us and willingness to forgive those who ask for it. What a holy, loving, and awesome God we serve!

– Joel Fletcher

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Ezekiel 42-43

Tomorrow we will read Ezekiel 44-45 as we continue on our

To Ground God Goads Gog

Ezekiel 38-39

Whenever we learn a pastor is going to be reading from one of the Prophets it usually means we’re going to hear something about Jesus or how a prophecy may be fulfilled soon (read: in our lifetime). Now, neither of these is a bad reason to look at the words God spoke through these chosen messengers, but I think there are other reasons we should read them and a mindset we should have when we do that more aligns with why they were written. Our reading for today will be a case in point.

In Ezekiel 38-39, we hear about Gog, a military leader, and Magog, the home of said leader. This guy Gog is someone who wants to go to blows with the people of God. And God will let it (or make it) happen, not because He doesn’t care about His people, but the opposite. God is going to send Gog to destroy Israel, but the tough guy and all who join him will meet their doom instead. Yahweh is going to reveal Himself to the world so that they know He really is God and He really does defend His people and care for them. Though they may be weak and outnumbered, Israel has the God of Angel Armies on their side and He will not be denied victory. The nations will see what happens to Gog and know it was God who put an end to him and his allies.

What Bible teachers and preachers usually do when expositing from these two chapters in Ezekiel, is to try to identify what current world nations are represented by the names mentioned in the text (e.g. Gog) and when these events will take place. This is an acceptable goal when trying to dig into the meaning of this passage and trying to see how it relates to other prophecies, especially if we think it might be fulfilled in our own lifetime. But I think the first thing we need to do (generally) when reading the Bible is try to understand what the purpose of the message was in the first place and then to see what it means for us today. We should have our minds be in a state where we’re hearing as the original intended audience heard it, then bring it to our own context and see how it fits there. Most of the Bible was written for Jewish people in an ancient Jewish context. We have to appreciate that and respond accordingly. One caveat is that just because a speaker doesn’t mention how a passage was heard in its original context doesn’t mean they didn’t think about it, it could be they didn’t have time to bring it up in their lesson/message. That being said, we should seek to regularly look at the original audience/context whenever we do our own study of the Bible.

Ezekiel 38-39 was written down by a Jew in exile for the Jews in exile. People who had a covenant with Yahweh but had repeatedly broken it. They had a relationship with the One True God but continued to cheat on Him with other nations and their false gods. They were being punished for their idolatry through exile. Babylon had conquered the Promised Land and they no longer could claim it as their home. God had revealed previously that He would restore Jewish people back to their home. He does again in this passage and says they will be living securely, in peace when Gog makes his move and is roundly defeated by Israel’s defender and the world is shown that Yahweh is the Holy One is Israel. This undoubtedly would have caused joy to the Jews who heard it, trust from those who believed it, and hope to the ones who thought about the future.

Bringing it to our own context, we may not be exiled from our native land, but we are awaiting a country of our own (Hebrews 11:14). We may not have worshiped false gods like Baal and Asherah, but perhaps we have elevated things or people to a place only reserved for God. We may not be a part of the Old Covenant which brought God to the defense of His rebellious people, but we are a part of the New Covenant which brought Jesus to take on the sins of rebellious people. How much more joy, trust, and hope should we have in Yahweh because of the New Covenant?

– Joel Fletcher

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel+38-39&version=NIV

Tomorrow we will read Ezekiel 40-41 as we continue on our

The Shepherd

Ezekiel 32-34

Ezekiel 33 and 34 cover leadership, how Ezekiel cannot be an effective leader and how God will one day lead Israel directly and be their shepherd. 

30 “As for you, son of man, your people are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the Lord.’ 31 My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. 32 Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.” (Ezekiel 33:30-32 NIV)

Ezekiel is a leader over God’s people, but he cannot lead effectively if they will not listen to him.  Ezekiel has been proclaiming God’s word to the people for a few years now and telling them of the judgements of God and the consequences of their actions, and they have been collectively taking his messages about as seriously as you would a street performer’s.  I think that a lot of people go to church today because they want to hear nice things from the pastor and they enjoy how energetic and uplifting the speaker can be, but unless you are being pushed to change your ways and grow closer to God and step outside of your comfort zone, then you might be like the Israelites here, with the word of God going in one ear and out the other.  Hearing the word is not enough, you have to listen and change.

11 “‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.

15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.” (Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-16 NIV)

I think that this looks forward to two different times.  First it looks to the time after the death of Jesus when the sins of mankind can be covered by Jesus’ blood and man can go directly to God, without the need for an earthly priest and a temple and daily sacrifices.  I think that Jesus was even alluding to this chapter when he told the parable of the shepherd who left the 99 sheep to find the one, basically telling the Israelites that God was ready to begin this new type of relationship with them that he had told them about during the time of Ezekiel.  

I think that this verse also looks forward to the Kingdom of God when he will reign as the perfect shepherd over all those who have believed.  At the time of Ezekiel this was very far away, and Jesus had not begun his ministry, and the Church was not yet established, but God still had a plan.

Revelation 21:3

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 

Thanks for joining us this week as we have been going through Ezekiel.  It is not a book that we know particularly well and we are glad that we have had this time to study it.

Chris and Katie-Beth Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel+32-34&version=NIV

Tomorrow we will be reading Ezekiel 35-37 as we continue our Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

A Time for Justice, A Time for Mercy

Ezekiel 20-21Ezekiel 20 8b 9a NIV sgl

In Ezekiel 20 God is explaining to the Israelites why he has gotten so tired of their rebellion.  He explains how each time they had rebelled he had mercy on them for the sake of his name so that the rest of the world would not mock him, but this generation of Israelites is following in the path of their ancestors and this time he will not have mercy.

 

“30 “Therefore say to the Israelites: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Will you defile yourselves the way your ancestors did and lust after their vile images? 31 When you offer your gifts—the sacrifice of your children in the fire—you continue to defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. Am I to let you inquire of me, you Israelites? As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I will not let you inquire of me.”

 

God has had mercy on them so much that the people of Israel do not really see the consequences of their sins and continue to go back to their sins over and over, and God has decided that it is time for them to feel the full weight of their sin and realize what the consequences are.  Again, though, he says that he will not stay angry with them forever, and he will bring them all back and will lead them again after a time.

 

“42 Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I bring you into the land of Israel, the land I had sworn with uplifted hand to give to your ancestors. 43 There you will remember your conduct and all the actions by which you have defiled yourselves, and you will loathe yourselves for all the evil you have done. 44 You will know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for my name’s sake and not according to your evil ways and your corrupt practices, you people of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord.’””

 

We are so blessed that we live after the time of Jesus, and can have our sins covered by his blood.  That way God can deal with us in mercy and use our example and our witness to spread the gospel and the glory of his name.  It is important to remember that it is not for our sake, but for the sake of God’s glory that we are shown this mercy.

Chris and Katie-Beth Mattison
Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at Biblegateway here – Ezekiel 20-21
Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Ezekiel 22-23 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

A Cheating Bride

Ezekiel 16-17

Ezekiel 16 8 15 NIV sgl

In Ezekiel 16 God is trying to explain his frustration with Israel to Ezekiel in a way they can understand.  He describes them as a bride that God had cared for and loved and showed mercy to.  A bride who then cheated on God with anybody around.

 

“14 Your fame soon spread throughout the world because of your beauty. I dressed you in my splendor and perfected your beauty, says the Sovereign Lord. 15 But you thought your fame and beauty were your own. So you gave yourself as a prostitute to every man who came along. Your beauty was theirs for the asking.”

 

Now in Israel a woman cheating on her husband was grounds for the death penalty, and everybody in Israel would take this very seriously.  While God is referring to the people of Israel intermarrying with other nations he is mostly angry about how the Israelites have given themselves over to the gods of the other nations and have offered sacrifices, even human sacrifices, and have strayed away from God’s teaching.  For this, his anger will burn against them, but there is hope…

 

59 “Now this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will give you what you deserve, for you have taken your solemn vows lightly by breaking your covenant. 60 Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were young, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.

62 And I will reaffirm my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the Lord. 63 You will remember your sins and cover your mouth in silent shame when I forgive you of all that you have done. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”

Even while God is as angry as he can be at them and is ready to hand the Israelites over to be killed and exiled and humiliated in front of the whole world for their sins he is calmed by the thought of his plan for Jesus to come and for his people to be reunited with him.

 

There is great comfort in this knowledge that God can always forgive, even if we are deserving of, or even in the middle of experiencing his anger and frustration.  It also reminds us of how serious our sins are and how hurtful they are to God, and that there can be very real and painful consequences in life for those sins.  We will continue to see in Ezekiel though that even in the middle of the pain and suffering we must have hope in God’s everlasting covenant.

Chris and Katie-Beth Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Ezekiel 16-17

Tomorrow’s reading will be Ezekiel 18-19 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Will it Be Okay?

Jeremiah 14-17

Jeremiah 14 19 b NIV sgl

I’ve been a pastor for 35 years.  As a pastor I’m often present for the happiest moments of people’s lives – when they get married, when they have a baby and want to have that baby blessed, when they give their life to Jesus Christ and are baptized, and when they celebrate great milestones like graduations, 50th wedding anniversaries and other joys.  I am privileged to “rejoice with those who rejoice.”

At the same time, I am also there during some of life’s most painful moments- when a loved one has died after a long illness, or suddenly in a tragic accident, when someone has just been told by their spouse that they want a divorce, or when their child has been arrested for possession of illegal narcotics.  I am there to weep with those who weep.

When people are going through the most painful or difficult challenges of their lives- when they are waiting for a loved one in major surgery, or for the test results to come back, I try to help them and provide a voice of calm assurance.  “It’s going to be okay.”  And of course, I want it to be okay.  But to be honest, sometimes it’s NOT okay.  Sometimes people don’t make it through surgery.  Sometimes couples don’t reconcile and marriages aren’t saved.  Sometimes test results come back and it’s bad.  Sometimes prodigal children don’t come back home, or back to Church or back to God.

Let’s be honest, 2020 sucks!  Covid-19 has killed a lot of people and has a lot of people scared.  A lot of people are out of work and the economy has tanked because of it.  A lot of people are scared to go anywhere including church.  For a time many states told people they weren’t allowed to go to church – what’s up with that?  And in the midst of that we’ve also had racial protests (or sometimes riots), murder hornets, great white shark attacks and now for more fun – its hurricane season.  Some people joke about, “What’s this month’s plague going to be?” but it’s getting to the point where it’s no joke.  Something’s going on.

The caring pastor part of me wants to take you by the hand and say “it’s going to be alright.  We’ll get through this.”  But can I be honest for a minute?  I don’t know that for sure.  For all I know Covid-19 could get a lot worse.  Or the vaccine they make to cure it could turn us all into vampires.  (Just kidding, I just watched the movie I Am Legend where the cure for cancer turned almost everyone into vampires.)  You get my point, I can’t guarantee that in a few weeks or months it’s all going to get better… it might not.

Can I be more honest?  God may be really angry right now.  “Oh, now Pastor Jeff we don’t believe in an angry God anymore- that Angry God of the 18th and 19th century has been replaced by a much more liberal and chill God, haven’t you heard?”  Well, I hate to break it to you but there’s only one God.  The God we worship today is the same God who was around in 600 BC when Jeremiah was walking around on the earth.  It’s the same God who got so angry with Israel for years of unfaithfulness that he sent a drought.  Yep, no water.  He’s the same God who said I’m going to call your neighbors to come and go fishing and hunting… for you, Judah.  It’s the same God who told Jeremiah that all the prophets who were out there telling everyone “It’s all going to be all right, we’re gonna get through this together” were spreading “fake news.”  They were false prophets telling people it was all going to be okay, when clearly God was not done smiting His very disobedient nation.

Make no mistake about it.  America has changed a LOT in the last 50 years.  It’s changed a lot in the last 10 years… or even 5 years.  Things that for a long time everyone agreed were bad, wrong, sinful have been declared ok.  Things that God used to say were important, like getting married BEFORE you have sex, and being faithful to your spouse after you get married, those kinds of things aren’t so important now.  Protecting the lives of the unborn, those aren’t so important either.  In Psalm 139 David says that God is the one who, “knit me together in my mother’s womb” but now it’s okay if the woman chooses to murder that unborn baby.  (“Pastor, you don’t sound very nice anymore, I don’t think I like where this is going?”)

I’m telling you the truth because I love you.  Don’t just listen to me, go back and read the actual verses in Jeremiah 14-17.  God was angry.  God told Jeremiah to tell the people “don’t even bother to pray to me for help right now, because I’m not helping you.”

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I believe that God is love and that everything God does is because of His great love for us.  That’s why he sent His Son to rescue us from our sinful ways.   God wants to rescue us from our sinful ways.  What we are doing collectively is WRONG.  It is hurting us.

I read an interesting article recently.  So called progressive elites, those liberal professors who say that traditional morality is bad or outdated, those who say that people should be free to do whatever they want.  Yeah, those people, the highly educated, the elites, the 1%.  They aren’t the ones having babies out of wedlock and whose children are being shot by gangs or dying from opioid addiction.  Those people who are “successful liberal elites” actually get married, then have children, work hard, live in good neighborhoods and do the kinds of things that actually lead to successful lives.  The people who suffer from living in a society that has tried to do away with God and with Biblical morality are actually the poor, the uneducated, those without power and privilege.   What we need to be telling people is the truth.  If you want to thrive and live a flourishing life you should do things the way God says to do it.  Adopt God’s values and live by them.  Turn away from evil.  That’s how you thrive.

Now, after telling Jeremiah that he won’t answer their prayers and things are about to get really bad for them, God does offer this hope.  After all the punishment is over, after the exile has passed, after you have repented and you’ve changed and are willing to start doing things the right way, I will take you back home and restore you and everything will eventually be okay.

So yes, ultimately, everything will be okay.  Someday God will restore this earth to its original state of perfection.  But first, God’s got to do some major housecleaning.  God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to leave you that way.  God wants to make you to be like Jesus.  Follow Him. Turn away from your sinful ways – do not follow this world into judgment, follow Jesus into the Kingdom of God.

Pastor Jeff Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage, Jeremiah 14-17, can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+14-17&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 18-22 as we continue seeking God and His Ways on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

A New World

Isaiah 64-66

As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure.

God called Jacob and He made the descendants of Jacob his Holy people. These are the ones who call on the name of the Lord. Yet today, there are those in Korea, China, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Morocco, Malawi, Russia, Slovenia, Italy, Germany, France, America, Canada, Samoa, the Philippines and all over the world who know the name of the same God who called chose Jacob so many years ago. Even though they were his chosen people, God said, “Here I am, here I am” to a nation that was not called by his name (65:1). God has called Christians to the same promise that he called the Israelites. Indeed, He says “I have come to gather all nations and languages; they will come and see My glory…I will establish a sign among them, and I will send survivors from them to the nations…and the islands far away—who have not heard of My fame or seen My glory” (66:19).

Eight hundred years later, God sent a sign by the name of Jesus. Jesus himself performed sign after sign, from healing the blind (John 9) to raising the dead (John 11). The final sign was being raised from the dead himself, but this was different from the sign that he performed by raising Lazarus, for Lazarus returned to the grave. Jesus never returned to the grave; to make sure there could be no confusion, Jesus was taken up into the sky in the presence of his followers (Luke 24). The fact that Jesus was taken up is key here because it signifies his resurrection to something new, just as Isaiah prophesied that the world will be transformed into something new.

The closing words of Isaiah state that just as the new earth will endure, so will we. We will endure from new moon to new moon and from sabbath to sabbath. That is, we will continue living indefinitely. But the final verse takes a turn from the uplifting words that precede it; it promises destruction to God’s enemies, those who rebelled against him. It does leave you with a few questions though, what does it mean for their fire to never go out? It might point to an eternal suffering of those rebels as is believed by many Christians. I am not entirely sure, but asking questions that make you examine your own beliefs is important for growth. We must always be humble and accept that these prophecies are complex, and we may never fully understand them until the end has come.

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+64-66&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 20-21 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

God Has Answers

Isaiah 5-8

Isaiah 8 20 NLT sgl

Today’s reading contained some pretty grim and possibly confusing stuff. In some sections it seems the people of Judah are completely doomed for destruction, while other parts tell of a coming protection. If you have come here today looking for an explanation and clarification on all that took place in these chapters – I’m sorry to say, I haven’t got one. Mainly because one perfect answer doesn’t exist. Scholars, theologians, historians, have all made attempts at understanding biblical prophecy. There has yet to be one universal agreed upon interpretation. The language barrier is one reason, as is the lack of context and historical gaps. If you want to know more about today’s reading and other prophecy, I encourage you to do two things. One, reach out to your local pastor with your specific questions. He or she would love to help you digest the Old Testament. Many have a wealth of biblical knowledge and bookcases stocked with resources. Plus, during this Covid time, many pastors are feeling a disconnect with their congregation, unable to meet under normal circumstances. They would welcome your questions and this opportunity to serve.

My second bit of advice is to follow that in Isaiah 8:20, “Look to God’s instruction and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark.” (NLT) Isaiah goes on to describe the type of darkness these people experience as a sort of wandering aimless search for answers. He paints a picture of people looking at the sky and shaking their fists at God. These people sought psychics and other mediums for answers, instead of seeking the LORD’s instruction. Whenever you are reading scripture and stumble upon a passage that confuses you, look to what you know to be true about God. Some of these Old Testament passages can be tricky and may produce the picture of God as being only angry and vengeful. Be sure to look to ALL of God’s instructions and teachings. Personally, when reading doom and gloom in the Old Testament, I try to keep in mind what God says about Himself as being “the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished;” (Exodus 34:6-7 NIV). I love this verse in Isaiah, because right in the midst of confusing prophecy, he gives us an answer, encouraging us to seek “God’s instructions” known to us through scripture.

This advice from Isaiah can also be applied to other aspects of our lives when searching for answers. I would say all aspects, except I’ve not yet found the part in scripture that explains calculus. Math aside, when we face difficult or confusing challenges, wandering in unknown darkness, we as believers are encouraged to seek God for the answers. We can approach God through our wonderful redeemer, Jesus Christ. Whether these answers are revealed to us by understanding scripture, receiving peace, or prayer, answers exist. I am experiencing some personal challenges in my life right now. A couple weeks ago, one of my best friends sent me a text reminding me to seek answers from God during this trial. Her encouragement applies also to you, and whatever your current struggles may be. The last part of Isaiah 8 reminded me of her words. I want to share some of them with you as a closing thought.

“It may seem like the pain, loss, confusion, and hole in your heart, are the only things you will ever know, but please remember, the Lord has a plan for you and He is there to listen to you, He is there to listen to your cries of anguish and despair. And He will console you, but you have to ask Him for His help. Please don’t shut yourself out of His sweet  and divine presence, my dear friend. Ask Him to give you guidance for what you should do next. How you should proceed with your life. Ask Him for His wisdom so that you can understand what lesson He wants to teach you, how He is trying to mold your character. And also maybe think of what He wants you to ask Him. What is HIS will?”

Emilee Ross

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+5-8&version=NIV

Tomorrow we begin another prophet writing at a similar time – Amos, chapters 1-5 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

The Queen of Sheba and Jesus

1 Kings 10-11 & 2 Chronicles 9

2 Chronicles 9 23 NIV

Who is the wisest person to ever live?
Let me tell you why you’re wrong. (Just kidding!)
Most of us answer Solomon, right? We are told that many times in Sunday School, and our teachers weren’t wrong. He was wise… to a point. We look at what he did at the beginning of his life and we see a man who was so dedicated to God that he asked for wisdom instead of riches, power, wealth or fame. For that, God gave him all wisdom and all the other things as well. Solomon was “wise enough to know that we are not wise enough on our own.” But, is Solomon the wisest person to ever live?
I believe our reading today disabuses of that notion quickly. Solomon starts off great, but in the end, his rule falls apart. His wisdom allowed his fame to increase. But as his fame increased, his wealth increased; as his wealth increased, his political connections, in the form of marriages, increased; as his number of marriages increased, the amount of gods he worshipped increased. And there’s our problem, but it doesn’t start there. Solomon, for all his wisdom, lost sight of the end goal. Wisdom is not meant for wealth. Wisdom is not meant for fame.
Wisdom is meant for godliness.
If we want to find the wisest person to ever live, we should look to the man who knew and had insight into the hearts of men and women, the one who even knew “all things.” Jesus, of course, is the wisest man to ever live. He unpacks the wisdom of God found in the Torah Law and applies it in a way that changes more than just behavior, but changes the heart. Jesus knew how to perfectly interpret scripture in wisdom. Most importantly, Jesus lived a life of wisdom by being Godly, doing what God wanted, all day, every day.
When we read about the Queen of Sheba and the wisdom of Solomon in 1 Kings 10 and 2 Chronicles 9, we need to remember that her praise was not only directed at Solomon. 1 Kings 10:9 reads “Blessed be the Lord your God who delighted in you to set you on the throne of Israel; because the Lord loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.” The Queen of Sheba was wowed at the power of YHWH to give wisdom to people. The wisdom that Solomon imparted was that God was the giver of wisdom and that God was the blesser of his people; this, sadly, was a lesson Solomon forgot. It should be no surprise that Jesus said “The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.” (Matthew 12:42, Luke 11:31) Jesus knew that if the Queen of the South, the Queen of Sheba, were alive in his day, she would travel from the ends of the earth to hear the message of wisdom that he preached, because his teaching, his power, his wisdom far exceeds all that Solomon had.
May we my brothers and sisters, stand on the day of judgement found in the wisdom of Jesus, the wisdom that leads to godliness. May we recognize the wisdom of Christ over the wisdom of this world, and choose Christ every time. May you be blessed because you choose to trust and to live your days in the saving grace of the wisest person who ever lived.
Jacob (Jake) Ballard
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Jake Ballard is Pastor at Timberland Bible Church. You can hear more of his thoughts and worship along with the TBC Family on Facebook, live streaming every Sunday at 10am. Reach out to Jake on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Tomorrow’s reading will be the end of the Proverbs (30-31) as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan