Remind Me: Whose Side Am I On?

Revelation 9-13

The Hebrews watched as the plagues of Israel consumed the whole of Egypt.  They watch God lead them in a cloud by day and a fire by night.  They watched the Red Sea part and swallow the advancing armies hoping to kill or reenslave them.  Yet, fresh off the heels of all of these things, they lost their nerve when Moses, their leader and messenger from God, had been gone for a few moments longer than expected.  In the place of God Almighty, they erected a golden calf to worship saying these were the true gods that brought them out of Egypt.  An enraged Moses came down from the mountain to see utter chaos.  Aaron fumbles through his excuses and the people of Israel are punished.  Moses declares that each person must pick a side – You are either for the Lord or against him. (Ex 32:26)

So much destruction occurs in these few chapters of our reading today as angel ominous trumpeting announces another terrifying event on earth.  Cities are destroyed from earthquakes, fire, sulphur, and smoke destroy a large percentage of the population, and a plague occurs that tortures to the point of death, but never comes. It isn’t a pretty site – unleashed by ultimate permission giver.  It will be an understatement that many will have their faith tested during these times, and begin seeking any answer to the misery they see unfolding before them.  When there is no great parting of the Red Sea proclaiming the Lord is in this moment, so many will begin to look to new creatures, whether literal, people, or nations, to follow for immediate comfort or distraction.  In fact, war will be raged against anyone who tries to serve the Lord during this time or who shares the testimony of Jesus (Rev 12:17). The only way to survive it seems, is to worship a beast and take its mark so you may buy or sell.

“The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk.” – Revelation 9:20

“The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom.” – Revelation 13:15-18a

There is much to study in these scriptures about what the unfolding of these events may look like in our coming world, but the implications of these passages are as simple as the charge from Moses. When I struggle, whose side am I on?  If there isn’t immediate relief from the pain, whose side am I on?  If it keeps me from my dreams, whose side am I on?  When it costs me my reputation or position, whose side am I on?  If it costs me my friends, my family, my children, or my life, whose side am I on?  Even if you don’t live long enough to set your eyes on the terrifyingly terrific events laid out by the trumpets, you must make a decision before you cross the path of the lesser trials in your own life.  A claim must be laid for the Lord in your heart, and you must begin setting yourself apart. Otherwise, your faith will be crushed at the first crosswind of complication.  Indecision will place you in the queue of those ready to receive their mark on the path of least resistance.  You may receive a momentary benefit from your idol, but it ultimately places you opposite of God.  Much like the fate of the Israelites who stood against Moses, destruction comes for those who stand against the Lord Almighty.  Draw a line. Pick a side. Ready yourself for the fight of your life.

“If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” – Matt 5:29,30

-Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Revelation 9-13.

Tomorrow we continue with chapters 14-18.

His Strength and Battle Plans

2 Kings 18:9-19:37 and Psalm 46, 80 & 135

2 Kings 19 19 NIV sgl

David was a small man compared to Goliath. Based on some Egyptian recordings, men of the time would stand around 5.5 feet tall. Now Goliath was either 6’9” or 9’9” depending on if you look at the Septuagint or the Masoretic texts. Either way, David was significantly smaller than the champion of the Philistines, yet God gave him the power to triumph over the giant. We have a few similar stories in the conquest of the Levant (the region where the Israelites were led to settle by God). When Joshua led Israel to defeat Jericho, there was no reason to believe that a small army could conquer such a well-fortified city, so God conquered for the Israelites. The defeat of king Og is another story of the Israelites conquest against a giant, and again, God conquered for the Israelites.

This story of Judah versus Assyria is really a story of David versus Goliath. Assyria was the ancient near east’s most powerful nation. The Assyrians turned Ninevah into a wealthy city and a center for culture and art. They also coerced all the surrounding nations into vassalage in order to fund these massive feats of architecture. This essentially means that the king of Assyria demanded large sums of gold and silver from the nearby kings in exchange for the “protection” of the Assyrians, which is a euphemism for, “Give me money or I’ll kill you and enslave all your people.” It’s a pretty good setup they’ve got going on. At the beginning of the passage you’ll see that Hezekiah is one of those kings who is a vassal to Sennacherib. Judah manages to cough up 10 tons of silver and 1 ton of gold. That’s a lot of money. Even with that generous donation, Assyria couldn’t leave Judah alone. Assyria lays siege to Jerusalem, mocks their God and insists that they will be forced to eat their own excrement if they stay on the side of God.

Choosing to stay on God’s side usually isn’t that difficult for me, but when the cost is eating your own filth, it certainly adds some weight to the decision.  Many kings of Judah and certainly most, if not all, of the kings of Israel would have submitted to Sennacherib’s will, but not Hezekiah. Isaiah tells Hezekiah that God will take care of everything, like he always does. Once again, God conquers for the Israelites.

We often want God to act through us, to perform some mighty feat of strength or wisdom with ourselves as the focus. However, God often chooses to do things without us so that we can know that the glory is his and his alone. We want to be like David, to be a man after God’s own heart, but also to be like David, a man who performed valiant feats. Let us remember that it is God’s will that will be done and not ours. We can build up fortresses for ourselves but they won’t save us. Our God is a mighty fortress, an ever present help in trouble. Nothing we create will ever be as effective a shield as Him.

 

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+18%3A9-19%3A37%3B+Psalm+46%2C+80%2C+135&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Isaiah 49-53 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Don’t Oppose God

Acts 12 24

Acts 12

“But the word of God increased and multiplied.” Acts 12:24

In this chapter we see a showdown between Herod and God. Not Herod the Great who was in power when Jesus was born, but Herod’s grandson who is also named Herod. I know, confusing.

Here is a summary of the showdown and the ways God showed His power time and time again:

  1. Herod kills James (v. 2) -> angel of the Lord kills Herod by having him eaten by worms. (v. 23)

  1. Herod throws Peter in jail (v. 4). -> angel of the Lord frees Peter (v. 7)

  1. Herod seeks Peter and orders him to be put to death (v. 19) -> God protects Peter (v. 16)

  1. Herod doesn’t give glory to God (v. 23) -> The word of God increases and multiplies (v.24)

So what’s the point? I think it’s pretty simple – if you oppose God, you lose. Even if you are part of the most powerful empire on earth, have all the resources and money in the world, nothing can come close to the power of God.

-Grace Rodgers