Thoughts From The Prophets: Justice, Mercy and Humility

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

The prophet Micah was trying to promote these qualities among Israel and Judah.  These qualities should have been understood to be qualities which God required in them (e.g. Genesis 18:19; Exodus 10:3; 23:1-9; Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 10:12-13; 1 Samuel 5:22; Proverbs 21:3; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; Isaiah 1:11-17; Hosea 6:6).

Many, in Micah’s day, lacked these qualities in them.  (1) They did not do justice.  Consider: Micah 3:11, “Her heads judge for a bribe, her priests teach for pay, and her prophets divine for money.  Yet they lean on the LORD, and say, ‘Is not the LORD among us?  No harm can come upon us.”  Micah 6:11-12, “Shall I count pure those with wicked scales, and with the bag of deceitful weights?  For her rich men are full of violence, her inhabitants have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.”  Micah 7:3, “That they may successfully do evil with both hands – The prince asks for gifts, the judge seeks a bribe, and the great man utters his evil desire; so they scheme together.”  (2) They were far from merciful in their behavior.  Consider: Micah 2:1-2, “Woe to those who devise iniquity, and work out evil on their beds!  At morning light they practice it.  Because it is in the power of their hand.  They covet fields and take them by violence, also houses, and seize them.  So they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.”  (3) They did not walk humbly with God.  Consider: Micah 3:1-2, “Hear now, O heads of Jacob, and you rulers of the house of Israel: Is it not for you to know justice? You who hate good and love evil…”  Micah 7:2, “The faithful man has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among men.  They all lie in wait for blood; every man hunts his brother with a net.”  Rote ritualistic sacrifices were not sufficient to please God (Micah 6:6-8).  Real change was needed.

God still requires these basic qualities in us.  (1) He requires that we treat our fellow-man properly.  (a) We are to do justly.  He wants us to be fair and honest in our dealings with one another (Matthew 5:7; James 5:4).  (b) We are to love mercy (Matthew 5:7; 18:21-35; Luke 6:36; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12; James 2:13; 1 Peter 3:8).  (2) He requires that we live humbly and submissively with Him (Luke 18:13-17; Romans 10:1-3; James 4:6-10; 1 Peter 5:5-6).  The first point should follow, if we live by this second point.

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Thoughts on Anthony Bourdain

What was it that made me like Anthony Bourdain?  It was not his religious beliefs.  He was not religious to my knowledge.  It was not his politics.  We were politically, I think, very far apart.  It was not his profanity.  I preach against the kind of language he used.  It was not my keen interest in cooking.  I like to eat, but I am not a cook.  Yet, there was something about him that I liked.  Perhaps, it was the way that he revealed, in his food and travel shows, people and culture.

He seemed to have it all, by the world’s standards.  He was a successful author, television host, and television producer. He had written a dozen books, including best selling selling book: Kitchen Confidential (2000); A Cook’s Tour (2001); The Nasty Bits (2006). His articles appeared in many publications, including: The New Yorker; The New York Times; The Times of London; The Los Angeles Times; Gourmet; Town & Country; Esquire; The Financial Times).   He had multiple successful television programs: A Cook’s Tour (2002-2003); Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (2005-2012); The Layover (2011-2013); Parts Unknown (2013-2018); The Mind of a Chef (2012-2017); The Taste (a judge, 2013-2016).  He won awards including: Food Writer of the Year; Multiple Emmys; a Peabody.  He visited over 100 countries while filming his television shows. He was in demand. He was away from home in travel between 200 and 250 days per year. He also was a book publisher.

He was found dead on June 8, 2018.  He died in his hotel room (he was staying at the 5 star Le Chambard hotel) in Kaysersberg, France.  He was there working on an episode of Parts Unknown.  His death has been ruled a suicide by hanging.  He was 61 years old.

Here are some things to ponder (regardless of the circumstances of Bourdain’s death):

  1.  Inner peace does not come from external circumstances.  Solomon once viewed life as meaningless, “Vainity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).  Ahab was miserable in his greed (1 Kings 21:4).  Jesus taught, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world, you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  Paul wrote while in prison, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11).
  2. Riches do not bring lasting satisfaction.  Anthony Bourdain was rich.  He had a net worth of $16 million. Moreover, He was staying at a 5 star hotel, when he died. Solomon said, “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance with increase” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).  Paul wrote, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (2 Timothy 6:6-8).
  3. We do not always know what is going on in the lives of others.  One of Bourdain’s friends, Bill Buford, said after his friend’s death, “I saw Tony regularly over 20 years.  I spoke to him pretty regularly.  I e-mailed pretty regularly with him.  I don’t regard myself as an intimate friend.  I regard myself as a friend.  But I’m beginning to suspect that he didn’t have many intimate friends.  He once said that he has a lot of good friends for one week.  And I think that is part of his performative self, there’s this person who… kind of has to keep busy, because there’s another person that maybe he is even hiding from himself… I wonder now if maybe he was keeping really busy… not because he was trying to get somewhere, but he was actually fleeing something” (Don Lemon interview, June 8, 2018.  transcripts.cnn.com).

We need try to be thoughtfully involved in each other’s lives.  The writer of Hebrews wrote, “Exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).  Let’s move beyond the shallowness of “How are you?” and “I am fine.”  “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).  Let us “warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

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Thoughts From The Prophets: Preach the Message That I Tell You

Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it, the message that I tell you” (Jonah 3:2).

These words were said to Jonah.  God, for the second time, was ordering Jonah to go preach to Nineveh (Jonah 3:1-2 cf. 1:1-2).  Jonah should have listened to God the first time.  However, he had tried to flee from his responsibilities.  God was giving him a second chance.  Jonah should have been thankful for this second chance.

Let us notice, first, Jonah was to preach to Nineveh.  Alas, Jonah was a super-patriot and a sorry prophet.  He did not want God to forgive these people (Jonah 3:10-4:11).

We need to be willing to proclaim the Gospel message to all.  The apostles commissioned to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47).  The early church went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4).  Christians are expected to mature to the point that they can teach and proclaim and defend the faith (Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3).  James instructed, “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality” (James 2:1).  We need to care about people, all people – regardless of nationality, ethnicity, socio-economic standing, tattoos, piercings, or appearance.

Let us notice, second, Jonah was to preach what God told him to preach.  “Jonah was to preach only that which God commanded – he could not preach just anything” (John Kachelman, Jr., Studies in Jonah, p. 67).

We need to proclaim the message of God (1 Peter 4:11; 2 Timothy 4:1; Galatians 1:8-9; 1 Corinthians 11:23a).  Homer Hailey commented, “The prophet was to ‘preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.’  This is the only preaching that will accomplish that which God wants accomplished.  One of the tragedies of today and of all time since the beginning of preaching – is that men are prone to substitute what their own wisdom dictates instead of preaching what God bids.  Man can make no improvement on God’s message” (Hailey, A Commentary on the Minor Prophets, p. 75).  Haddon W. Robinson has written, “The man in the pulpit faces the pressing temptation to deliver some message other than that of the scriptures – a political system (either right-wing or left-wing), a theory of economics, a religious philosophy, old religions slogans, a trend in psychology.  A preacher can proclaim anything in a stained-glass voice, at 11:30 on Sunday morning, following the singing of hymns.  Yet, when a preacher fails to preach the scriptures, he abandons his authority.  He confronts his hearers no longer with a word from God, but only with another word from men” (Robinson, Biblical Preaching, p. 18).  “Ultimately the authority behind preaching resides not in the preacher but in the biblical text.  For that reason the expositor deals largely with an explanation of scripture, so that he focuses the listener’s attention on the Bible” (Robinson, p. 23).  It is by the word of God that man is born again (1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18), sanctified (John 17:17), built up and will received an inheritance (Acts 20:32).  “Preach the word!” (2 Timothy 4:2).

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Thoughts From The Prophets: Deceived by Pride

The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who dwell in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high” (Obadiah 3).

These words were for Edom (Obadiah 1).  They were prideful.  The Hebrew word which is translated “pride” means “exaltation” (Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius).  It is used in two sense, “In a positive sense… ‘excellence’ or ‘majesty’… The majority of the uses of gaon are negative in that they connote human ‘pride’ as an antonym for humility… Proverbs puts gaon together with arrogance, evil behavior, and perverse speech” (Vine’s), The word “pride” is connected with arrogance and haughtiness (Proverbs 8:13; 16:18; 21:24), and is contrasted with being humble (Proverbs 11:2; 29:23).  God hates this kind of pride, and considers it an abomination (Proverbs 6:16-19; 8:13; 16:5).

Over what were they prideful?  (1) They were prideful over their dwelling place, and its natural defenses.  They said in their hearts, “Who will bring me down to the ground’ (Obadiah 3).  They lived in a place which was easily defended.  Homer Hailey comments, “The country of Edom lay south of the Dead Sea in a rugged region known as the Arabah.  The mountainous area on either side of the Arabah was noted for its steep canyons, impregnable mountain strongholds, and well-protected coves.  In these people felt themselves security against their enemies” (Hailey, A Commentary on The Minor Prophets, p. 32).  “There principle city was Petra, one of the most spectacular fortresses of the entire ancient world… a handful of men could have defended it against a whole army” (Coffman, studylight.org).  (2) They may have been prideful of their wealth.    Their hidden treasures are mentioned (Obadiah 5 -6).  Homer Hailey comments, “Edom took pride not only in his physical strength and strategic location, but also in his wealth.  Possessing great ore deposits and being located as he was on the crossroads of caravan traffic, he had grown wealthy through trade, through duty charged the caravans that traversed his land,  …and through his disposition to plunder weak caravans that passed through” (Hailey, p. 33).  “The ancient Greek historian Diodorus Siculus indicates that the Edomites put their wealth – accumulated from trade – in vaults in the rocks” (NIV Study Bible).   (3) They may have been prideful in their treaties and military alliances.  Their confederacy is mentioned (Obadiah 7).  Homer Hailey suggests that this may have included Moab, Ammon, Gaza, Tyre, and Arabian tribes (Hailey, pp. 33-34).  (4) They may have prided themselves in their wise men (Obadiah 8; Jeremiah 49:7), and their mighty men (Obadiah 9).

The LORD’s reply: “Though you ascend as high as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down” (Obadiah 3-4).  They would not escape God’s judgment.  [Note: They did not.  Gleason Archer, Jr. writes, “As to the fulfillment of this doom upon Edom, it may be fairly inferred from Malachi 1:3-5 that by Malachi’s time (435 B.C.) the Edomites had already been driven from Sela and Mount Seir by the overwhelming forces of the Nabatean Arabs.  Secular sources inform us that as early as the reign of Darius I (521-485 B.C.) the Nabateans had pushed Edom out of their ancestral territory and driven them into the deserted regions of Southern Judea… As for dispossessed Edomites, the region in which they settled came to be known as Idumea, where they maintained an independent existence for a time, until they were conquered by… John Hyrcanus (135-105 B.C.), and forcibly converted to the Jewish faith” (Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, p. 310)].

Many today feel secure, even pridefully secure, in their lives.  They have nice homes, with security systems.  They live in quiet, peaceful neighborhoods, and on gated property.  Their country has a strong economy and a strong military – the strongest the world has even seen.  They have great medical insurance.  They are smart, and in many ways have wisely planned their lives.

However, many of these same people have neglected their relationship with God, or have altogether forgotten Him.  This is a serious and fatal mistake.  Ultimately, if one is not right with God nothing else matters (Mark 8:36-37).  Remember, “Riches do not profit in the days of wrath” (Proverbs 11:4).  Riches are not going to spare one.  Remember, “Though they join forces, none will go unpunished.”  Alliances are not going to spare one.  Remember, “Though you ascend as high as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,’ says the LORD” (Obadiah 4).  Earthly defenses will not spare one.

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Thoughts From The Prophets: Walking With God

Can two walk together unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3).
There are two understandings of these words. Some take this to refer to agreement in direction. If you are headed south, and I am headed north, how can we walk together? Some understand this to refer to an agreed meeting place to walk together. “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?” (E.S.V.). George Adam Smith commented, “Do two men walk together except they have trysted? – except they have made an appointment. Hardly in the desert; For there men meet and take the same road by chance as seldom as ships at sea” (Smith, The Book of the Twelve Prophets, Vol. 1, p. 82). The original word, yawad (agreed), seems to support the latter view (see: BDBG Lexicon).
If one holds to the first view, then this is about direction or agreement in direction. Consider: Leviticus 26:21, “Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me…”; Leviticus 26:23-24, “If… you… walk contrary to Me, then I also will walk contrary to you, and I will punish you…”
If one holds to the latter view, then this is about relationship and intent to walk together. This view is not much different from the first view. Both have to do with agreement in direction. However, this view has the additional idea of intention of walking together, fellowship. Consider: 1 John 1:6-7, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and Walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another…”; 1 John 2:6, “He who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk just as He walked.”
Israel no longer walked with God. Coffman commented, “Israel’s having forsaken God’s way means that they are no longer ‘agreed’ with God. Can they continue together? The law of cause and effect operates to separate them” (studylight.org).
It is possible to walk with God. “Enoch walked with God” (Genesis 5:22, 24). “Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). Are you?
“Let me live close to Thee, Take my hand dear Lord, and guide me all along the rugged way; O let me live close to Thee, Let me walk and talk with Thee, dear Lord, each day” (Song: Let Me Live Close to Thee by J.R. Baxter, Jr.).
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Thoughts From The Prophets: The LORD Will Not Acquit The Wicked

God is jealous, and the LORD avenges; The LORD avenges and is furious.  The LORD will take vengeance on His adversaries and He reserves wrath for His enemies; The LORD is slow to anger and great in power and will not at all acquit the wicked.  The LORD has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet”  (Nahum 1:2-3).

Five things are about the LORD in these two verses.  Let’s notice: (1) “God is jealous, and the LORD avenges.”  The word “jealous” refers to passion.  He is not dispassionate or disinterested.  He would punish Assyria (Nahum 1:1; 3:1; Isaiah 10:5-7, 12-14; Jeremiah 50:18).  (2) “The LORD avenges and is furious.”  This is synonymous with the first point.  (3) “The LORD will take vengeance on His adversaries and He reserves wrath for His enemies.”  The coming wrath on Nineveh (Assyria) was not without reason.  They were His enemies. The E.S.V. Study Bible comments, “God’s holy anger is righteous and just in defense of his word and his people.”  (4) “The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked.”  He had been patient, and had given them time.  However, the time was up.  This ancient city, which dated to shortly after the flood (Genesis 10:8-10), and which served as the capital city of Assyria for many years (c. 1100 – 612 B.C.) would be looted (Nahum 2:9), and burned (Nahum 2:13; 3:13).  It would be made desolate (Zephaniah 2:13-15), and have no healing (Nahum 3:9).  (5) “The LORD has his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.”  He is powerful.

Let’s consider more closely the fourth point and make application for us.  (1) The LORD is slow to anger.  The destruction of Nineveh was slow in coming.  Approximately 100 years earlier God had sent the prophet Jonah to them, and they repented (See: book of Jonah).  However, this change was short-lived.  They had become morally corrupt (Nahum 3:1), idolatrous (Nahum 1:14; 3:4), prideful and without respect for the LORD (2 Kings 18:28-35).  Judgement would come.  Application for us – God’s patient should not be viewed as dispassion or disinterest. Wayne Jackson comments, “It may superficially appear that God ignores evil, but this is not the case. His delay in dealing with such is due to His great patience; He is ‘slow to anger’ (1:3)” (Jackson, Notes From The Margin Of My Bible, vol.1, p.155). Peter warned, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

(2) The LORD is great in power.  He can control nature (Nahum 1:3b-5).  The point: “Who can stand before His indignation?  And who can endure the fierceness of His anger?” (Nahum 1:6).  Wayne Jackson comments, “Nahum introduces examples of Jehovah’s power, as reflected in nature, as an argument for the fact that He is able to deal with man wickedness – in this case that of Nineveh” (Jackson, p. 156).  Application for us – we should respect God.  He is the Creator and the Sustainer of this universe.  If tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes, fire, thunder and lightning should be feared and respected, then how much more should God, the Creator of all things?

(3) The LORD will not acquit the wicked.  He punishes sin.  Application for us – Judgment is coming (2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27).  “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.  For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the spirit will of the spirit reap everlasting life.  And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:7-9).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thoughts From the Prophets: The Valley of Decision

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!  For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14).

“The valley of decision” is the equivalent to the “the valley of Jehoshaphat” (Joel 3:14 cf. 3:2, 12). Terry Varner commented “Joel calls for the nations to ‘assemble,…come,…gather’ (3:11b). They are come to ‘the valley of Jehoshaphat’ (3:12), meaning ‘Jehovah judges,’ as ‘I sit to judge all the heather’ (3:12)” (Editors Thomas Warren and Garland Elkins, The Minor Prophets, Power Lectureship, p.81). Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown comments “As Jehoshaphat overthrew the confederate foes of Judah, viz., Ammon, Moab, etc. (Psalms 83:6-8), in this valley, so God was to overthrow the Tyrians, Zidonians, Philistines. Edom, and Egypt, with a simular utter overthrow (vss. 4,19)” (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, Commentary On The Whole Bible, p. 787). The decision, the judgment, is Jehovah’s.  He will sit and judge.  Homer Hailey comments, “The judgment is indicated as universal, on all nations that had had a part in scattering His people” (Hailey, A Commentary on The Minor Prophets, p. 57).

There is a judgment day to come (John 12:48; Acts 17:31; Romans 2:16; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27).  His judgment will be the only judgment that will matter on that day.  Human opinions will not matter.  Subjective thoughts will have no authority.

However, our decisions do now count.  We are in “the valley of decision” in this life.  What will we choose?  Will we choose to submit ourselves to the Lord or not?  Jesus said, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him – the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).

What Then?

When all the great plants of our cities have turned out their last finished work;          When our merchants have sold their last yard of silk, and dismissed the tired, weary                clerk;                                                                                                                                           When our banks have taken in their last dollar and declared their last dividend;       When the Judge of the World says, ‘closed for the night,’ and ask for a balance-           What then?

When the people have sung their last anthem, and the preacher has said his last prayer; When the Bible lies closed on the pulpit, and the pews are all empty of men,               When all stand facing the record, and the Great Book is opened, –                                   What then?

When the actor has played his last drama, and the mimic has made his last fun;        When the film has flashed its last picture, and the billboard displayed its last run.    When the crowds seeking pleasure have vanished, and gone out in the darkness again, When the trumpet of all ages is sounded, and we stand before God, –                             What then?

When the bugle’s last call sinks in silences, and the long, marching columns stand still; When the captain has given his last orders, and they’ve captured the last fort and hill; When the flag has been hauled from the masthead, and the wounded soldiers have all              checked in;  When a world that rejects its Savior is ask for a reason, –                     What then?

~ Author unknown

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