Thoughts From The Prophets: A Bag With Holes

Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: consider your ways!  You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes” (Haggai 1:5-6).

A remnant of Israel returned home from captivity in 536 B.C. (Ezra 1-2).  Haggai addressed them in 520 B.C., sixteen years later (Haggai 1:1).  They had rebuilt their houses, but the temple had not been rebuilt.  Notice: “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” (Haggai 1:4); My house… is in ruins, while everyone runs to his own house” (Haggai 1:9).  True, there had been opposition (Ezra 4).  However, they were now procrastinating.  Notice: “This people says, ‘The time has not come, the time that the LORD’s house should be built” (Haggai 1:2).

Therefore, God was not fully blessing them, as He wanted to bless them.  Notice: “You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away.  Why?’ says the LORD of hosts.  ‘Because of My house that is in ruins, while everyone runs to his own house.  Therefore, the heaven above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit.  For I called for a drought on the land and the mountain, on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands” (Haggai 1:9-11).  Many of the promised blessings and cursings to Israel, under the old covenant, were physical in nature [e.g. Exodus 23:25-26; Leviticus 26:3-8, 14, 20; Deuteronomy 7:12-16a; 28:1-14, 15-68 (esp. vv. 38-40); 30:1-10].

It was time to build.  The LORD instructed them, “Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified” (Haggai 1:8).  They obeyed (Haggai 1:12-15), and were blessed (Haggai 2:15-19).

Some today have a Christianity full of holes.  Consider: (1) Some hear God’s word, but do not put such things into practice (Matthew 7:24-27; James 1:22-23).  (2) Some never study, never grow (Hebrews 5:12; 2 Peter 3:18).  (3) Some claim to be Christians, but do not faithfully attend (Hebrews 10:24-25).  (4) Some claim that they desire the church to grow and prosper, but they are not actively involved in the work, and only meagerly support the work (2 Corinthians 9:6).

Some churches are full of holes.  Consider: (1) The whole counsel of God is not preached (Acts 20:20, 26-27).  (2) Shepherds are not shepherding the flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Ezekiel 34:1-10).  (3) Church discipline is not practiced (Matthew 18:15-17; Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; Titus 3:10).  (4) Some have little zeal or passion; they have left their first love (Revelation 2:5).  (5) Some do not have fervent love for one another (1 Peter 1:22; 4:8).

Some families are full of holes.  Consider: (1) Some emphasize secular education, but not Biblical training (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Ephesians 6:1-4; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15).  (2) Some emphasize material things, but not spiritual things (Proverbs 11:4; Zephaniah 1:18; Mark 8:36-37; 2 Peter 3:10-111.  (3) Some are not trying to help one another to heaven (1 Peter 3:1-7).  (4) Some lack love (1 Corinthians 13:1-8a; Ephesians 5:25, 28; Titus 2:4) and forgiveness (Matthew 6:14-15; 18:21-35; Luke 17:3-4; Ephesians 4:31-32; Colossians 3:12-14).

Some people pursue things which really do not satisfy.  Solomon said, “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance with increase” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).

  Johnny Ramsey once listed seven modern bags with holes (1) superficial responses; (2) Social club religion; (3) Preachers who seldom study; (4) Elders who fail to watch for souls; (5) Parents who stress material values; (6) Folks who postpone obedience; (7) Brethren who drift away from God”  (Editors: Thomas Warren and Garland Elkins, The Minor Prophets, Power Lectureship, p. 271 quoting Johnny Ramsey, The Firm Foundation, February 25, 1986).

Can you think of others?  No doubt you can.

Let’s get rid of all bags which lead to disappointment.

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Thoughts From The Prophets: Seek The LORD, Righteousness, and Humility

Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice.  Seek righteousness, seek humility.  It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the LORD’s anger” (Zephaniah 2:3).

Judgement was coming on the land of Judah and the city of Jerusalem (Zephaniah 1:4-6).  The prophet, Zephaniah, sounded the warning, saying – “The great day of the LORD is near; It is near and hastens quickly.  The noise of the day of the LORD is bitter; There the mighty men shall cry out.  That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of cloud and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and alarm against the fortified cities and against the high towers” (Zephaniah 1:14-16).

Why was God bringing judgment to them?  The kingdom had become greatly corrupted.  Consider: (1) Idolatry (Zephaniah 1:4-5).  God would purge the land of this.  (2) Mixed devotion (Zephaniah 1:56).  They were trying to serve both the LORD and other gods.  Such will not work (cf. Matthew 6:24).  (3) Apostasy (Zephaniah 1:6).  They had turned from following the LORD.  (4) Corrupt leadership (Zephaniah 3:3-4 cf. 1:8; Micah 3:11; Jeremiah 5:31; 6:31).  The civil leaders (princes and judges) and the religious leaders (prophets and priests) were not serving and protecting the people.  There were preying on the people (cf. Ezekiel 34:1-6).  (5) Violence and deceit (Zephaniah 1:9).  Some believe that leaping over the threshold refers to idolatry (cf. 1 Samuel 5:4-5).  Others believe that the wording is of robbery.   Darrell Conley combined these two thoughts, commenting, “The superstitious believed that the threshold of a house was protected by the household gods.  Therefore, those bent on robbery or mischief would leap over the threshold in an attempt to escape the notice of the household deities” (Editors Thomas Warren and Garland Elkins, The Minor Prophets, p. 241).  (6) Complacency (Zephaniah 1:12).  Some did not believe that God would punish them (cf. Ezekiel 8:12; 9:9; Isaiah 29:15; Psalm 10:11; 94:6-7).  He would correct this error.  (7) Some trusted in the wrong things (Zephaniah 1:18).  This verse reads, “Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’s wrath.”  Proverbs 11:4 reads, “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”

What should be done?  (1) “Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice” (Zephaniah 2:3a).  This was not the time to give up.  Continued faithfulness was needed.  We are told, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).  Those who needed to repent, urgently needed to do so.  Isaiah pleaded, “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.  Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon (Isaiah 55:6-7).  (2) “Seek righteousness” (Zephaniah 2:3b).  We are told to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6).  (3) “Seek humility” (Zephaniah 2:3c).  We are told, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God…” (1 Peter 5:5-6).  Judgment on the nation was coming.  However, God might be providentially with the faithful (Zephaniah 2:3d).  Homer Hailey comments, “Righteousness and meekness are essentials of escape but the prophet does not promise certain escape.  Rather, “it may be ye will be hid’; for the wickedness is so great and the judgment so terrible that even these who seek righteousness may suffer vicariously for the sins of society.  If there is to be any way of escape, Zephaniah offers the only possible hope for that escape in righteousness and meekness” (Hailey, A Commentary on The Minor Prophets, pp 234-235).

This is the best hope for any people.  “Let us not grow weary while doing good…” (Galatians 6:9).


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Thoughts From The Prophets: Keep Silence Before Him

But the LORD is in His holy temple.  Let all the earth keep silence before Him” (Habakkuk 2:20).

The context concerns idols.  The previous two verses read, “What profit is the image, that its maker should carve it, the molded image, a teacher of lies, that the maker of its mold should trust in it, to make mute idols?  Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Awake!’ To silent stone, ‘Arise!  It shall teach!’ Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, yet in it there is no breath at all” (Habakkuk 2:18-19).  These words seem to be about Chaldea (Babylon).  Jeremiah described them saying, “It is the land of carved images, and they are insane with their idols” (Jeremiah 50:18).  Trust in idols is foolishness (Isaiah 41:21—29; 44:9-20; Jeremiah 10:14-16).  They are mute, silent, and have no breath (Habakkuk 2:18-19).  However, it is a teacher of lies (Habakkuk 2:18), through its false prophets (cf. Zechariah 10:2).  In reality, “an idol is nothing in the world” (1 Corinthians 10:14).

Habakkuk 2:20 sets forth a great contrast.  Notice the word “but.”  The LORD is in His holy temple, that is in heaven (Psalm 11:4).  The ESV Study Bible comments, “There is a tremendous contrast between silent, inanimate idols and the awesome living God who sits enthroned in heaven and rules over the earth.  He is the one who deserves the honor and reverence bestowed on worthless idols.”  Let all the earth keep silence before Him.  What does this mean?  Homer Hailey comments, “Silently submitting to His divine rule and judgment, rejecting the dumb idols that cannot answer or help” (Hailey, A Commentary on The Minor Prophets, p. 288).   Stephen Wiggins writes, “Jehovah God is on His heavenly throne.  He is in complete control and all are to silently submit to His divine rule and judgment” (Editors Thomas B. Warren and Garland Elkins, The Minor Prophets, Power Lectureship, p. 218).

It is a bit off subject.  However, someone once pointed out to me that many will not walk into a room when prayer is being offered to God, but do not even give a second thought to walking into the same room when scripture is being read.  He asked if we thought our words to God were more sacred than His words to us.  Do we respect the word of God as we should?  When Ezra the priest read, we are told, “the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law” (Nehemiah 8:3).

“The Lord is in His holy temple: Let all the earth keep silence before Him; keep silence, keep silence, keep silence before Him” (Song: The Lord is in His Holy Temple by William J. Kirkpatrick)

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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.

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,  (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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