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Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Problem We Have - God is alive


Yesterday (Friday morning, August 29, 2014) as I drove by a house in Lake Shasta area, a lady opened up a garage sale. On seeing me approaching the lawn-ground where she spread stuff, the lady started out complaining about the water bill. I said, "What is wrong with your water bill?" "What is your problem??" She said, "The City punished me with a fine." "How much?" I asked. "$50", she said.

I don't know why she complained to me, a total stranger. Perhaps she did it to let me know why she had to put together a yard sale, that is, she needed cash money in anticipation for the water bill going up.

The penalty she was hit with made me concerned for I was considering developing in my backyard a small plot of ground to grow some vegetables like tomato or cucumber which need lots of water.


California has a drought problem. In Shasta Lake, violators of the updated rules for water consumption could face a misdemeanor charge, up to $1,000 fine each day per violation and as many as 30 days in jail.

But according to the Bible the real problem is not drought itself but the one who causes the drought, for Amos says, "He who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns midnight into dawn and darkens day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land—the Lord is his name." Amos 5:8 As if this is not enough, Amos repeats, "he builds his lofty palace in the heaven and sets its foundation on the earth; he calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land - the Lord is his name." 9:6

The citizens living in the ancient city of Nineveh understood this better, so on hearing Jonah's message, "Forty more days, the city will be overthrown", they all repented, turning to God saying,

"Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

Ninevites believed God is alive. They knew God [of Jonah] not they is the ruler. So they gave up what God hated. Then God relented. Problem solved.







Thursday, August 28, 2014

Jonah

The God of Jonah

Jonah 1:1-4:11
Key Verse 4:10,11

But the LORD said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?"

In the passage for today, God trained and used Jonah to help the people of Nineveh repent and be saved from destruction. Through the passage, may God bless us to meet with the God of Jonah, so that through this fellowship with Him we too would grow as useful servants for all the campus students in this great city of Los Angeles and beyond.

I. The Lord runs after Jonah (1:1-17)

First, the Prophet Jonah. Who was Jonah? He was a Hebrew. He worshiped God, the maker of heaven and earth (1:9). He was also the prophet who ministered in Northern Israel (2 Kings 14:25). As a prophet, he received the privilege to have access to the word of God (1:1).  In order to save the world, God established the Israelites as a kingdom of priests. Among the Israelites, Jonah was the prophet who took charge of the word of God. Jonah was a walking Bible in his day. The world looked to him for spiritual help. In our days, God calls Christians and uses them as 'walking Bibles.’ We are 'moving Bible houses,' so to speak. As a moving Bible house, each of us has the blessed mission to serve God's words to his flock daily.

            Second, God's command to Jonah. Look at v. 2. "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." God's command was for him to 'go.' God's servant must be a 'ready-to-go' man at all times. In the military, whenever the commander-in-chief says, "Go," the soldiers must pick up their weapons and "go." When Jesus rose again and appeared to the disciples, Jesus commanded them, "Go into all the world and preach..." (Mark 16:15). Going is essential in saving souls.          When God says, "Go," we must rise up and go to our sheep's place.

            To whom shall Jonah go? The Lord commanded him to go to the great city of Nineveh! Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria. In the days of Jonah, the Assyrian Empire was emerging as a superpower nation. God always has his eyes on the superpower nation. In the days of Joseph, God sent Joseph to help the superpower nation of Egypt with the gospel message (Genesis 45:5). In the days of Daniel, God called Daniel as a Bible teacher for the people in the superpower nation of Babylon. In the days of Jesus, God sent Paul to Rome to help people within the Roman Empire to repent and be saved. Likewise, in the days of Jonah, God sent Jonah to Nineveh to help the people within the Assyrian Empire to repent and be saved from destruction.

            What should Jonah preach? Look at v. 2 again. "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." This message is not pleasant to preach. As God's servants, we are called to serve not only sweet messages, but also hard messages. Because the world is evil, we will most likely be called to preach 'against' the audience we are sent to. "Preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." God gave Jonah a hard message to serve.

            Third, Jonah's rebellion. How did Jonah respond to God's command? Let us read vs. 3-16 responsively. Jonah didn't like God's command. He ran away from God. In his rebellion, he played hide and seek. Perhaps, like Isaiah, when he was called to serve God as a prophet, he must have said to God, "Lord, here I am. Please send me! If I do not go, who else would go?" But now he was running away from the Lord, earnestly hoping that God would change his mind and send someone else.

            Look at v. 12. "Pick me up and throw me into the sea," he replied, "and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you." He knew that he was at fault. Yet he didn't want to obey God's command. He knew that God was chasing after him. Yet he simply did not like the command, so he did not want to even think about it. He hated it so much that he would rather die than obey the command. "Pick me up and throw me into the sea!" In essence he is saying, "Lord, I would rather die than go and preach against the great city!"

            Fourth, God provided a big fish for Jonah. In great reluctance, the crew members threw Jonah overboard. Now Jonah was bound to become food for the fish in the Mediterranean Sea. Then what happened to Jonah? Look at v. 17. "But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights." Jonah wanted to die, but God did not allow him to die. God provided a big fish and commanded the fish to take care of him.

            This event shows that the life of God's servant is in the hands of God. Livingstone, the famous British missionary who served in the African jungles, left one famous statement: man will never die until God's mission for him is done. From God who provided Jonah with a big fish, we learn that man's mission is more important than man's life. Therefore, we should not worry about our life. We must struggle to serve the mission no matter what happens to us. We must take up Apostle Paul's attitude when he said in Acts 20:24, "...I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace."

II. The Lord Answers Jonah's Prayer (2:1-10)

            The life inside the fish was no fun at all. In fact, it was terrible. He felt distressed, tumbling like a pair of socks in a laundry machine. He felt dizzy. He could hardly breathe. He drank so much salt water that his stomach began to swell like a frog in a pond. Like a man riding a roller coaster at Magic Mountain, he plunged down to the roots of the mountains underneath the sea and then rose up again to the surface of the sea. The biggest problem was that, although he wanted to die, he could not die. He had no control over his life. The life inside the fish was surely bitterer than death itself. And Jonah later described his life inside the fish as 'the life in the depths of the grave.' The expression, 'depths of the grave,' shows that he virtually died and was buried. He became a dead person, drinking the foul soup of death.

            In distress, what did he do? Look at v. 1. There, at the end of the rope, he cried out to the Lord for help. How much did he pray? Look at v. 7. "When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple." He prayed until his prayer rose to the throne of God. At first he must have said, "Lord, if you save me, I would go and preach." But still there was no answer. He repeated the same prayer more earnestly than ever. Still there was no answer. Finally, what did he say? Look at v. 9. "But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD." The Israelites do not use the word 'vow' lightly. Yet, the Prophet Jonah used the word 'vow.' He made a 'vow' to go and preach. He said, "Lord, I will go and preach as you commanded. I am serious. I will go even singing a joyful song, 'O Zion haste, thy mission high fulfilling, to tell to all the world that God is Light...'"  In this way, Jonah sincerely prayed to God that if God only saved him, he would go to Nineveh and preach the message. How did the Lord bless his message? Look at v. 10. "And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land." From the Lord who saved Jonah from the depths of grave, we learn two things:

            First, the Lord gave Jonah a second chance to fulfill the mission from God. God could have abandoned Jonah so that he would decay in the stomach of a fish or end up as ground beef between the teeth of a shark. But God gracefully spared him. Jonah wanted to commit suicide, but God did not allow him to do so, for his mission was not yet done. Furthermore, the Ninevites were yet to be saved. Often times, we forget God's purpose for our life. Then, in our own selfish desires, we run away from God, going the opposite direction. Then we end up in a terrible place like the stomach of a big fish. Then we come to remember God and cry out to him. Then the Lord always hears our prayer and gracefully saves us, so that with many thanks we could offer our bodies to save lost souls.

            Second, thorough training, God molded Jonah into a useful servant of God. Before the training inside the fish, Jonah was a stiff-necked person. But, after the training, he became a very obedient person. In the past, his mouth was full of complaints, but now his mouth was full of thanksgiving. Furthermore, through training, he overcame the fear of death.  Through his training, he picked up resurrection faith. He experienced the power of God who can raise the dead from the grave. In short, after the training, he shook off the fear of death. He was ready to go and brave any hardship including martyrdom.

III. The Lord sends Jonah to Nineveh (3:1-10)

            First, "Proclaim the message I give you!" Look at vs. 1,2. "Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’" God did not alter the message. He gave Jonah the same message as before. Here, the expression, "the message I give you," is very important. God's servant should not mix his own ideas with God's message. God's servant must deliver God's message. To us, the command, 'Proclaim the message I give you,' directs us to serve God's words, so that people would repent of their sins and fit their standards of life to God's standards of life. As Bible teachers, we must not fit the word of God to people, but fit people to the word of God.

            Second, a call for repentance. Look at vs. 3,4. "Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city--a visit required three days. On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: ‘Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned."" His message was simple. "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.’" This message was suggestive of many messages. Essentially, this message calls for an immediate repentance. God could have destroyed the wicked Ninevites immediately by sending great disasters like an earthquake of 9.0 magnitude. But God did not do that. God granted them the grace period of 40 more days. Between the words 'forty more days' and 'Nineveh will be overturned,' there is the hidden message calling the Ninevites to repent. God has the same message to fallen men in each generation. God never punishes man's wickedness without giving man a sufficient opportunity to repent. In each generation, God calls people to repent by sending his servants to them with the gospel message.

            Third, the repentance of the Ninevites. How did the Ninevites respond to the message? Let us read vs. 5-9 responsively. Ninevites, although they were violent people, believed God. The people in Sodom and Gomorrah did not. When Lot's sons-in-law heard from Lot the message of God's impending judgment, they thought that their father-in-law was joking. The Ninevites could have treated Jonah as an insane person and ignored his message. However, they 'believed' Jonah's words as God's message. They declared a fast among all of them, including cattle. It was a nationwide repentance. Like one man they all repented, from the King in the royal box to the dogs and cows in the field. And their repentance was not superficial. They sincerely repented. In great terror and fear of God's judgment upon them, they gave up their evil ways and violence. Furthermore, they believed in God who is slow to anger and quick to show compassion. Look at v. 9. "Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish."

            The Ninevites set a good example of repentance. In Luke 11:32 Jesus said, "The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here." From a biblical point of view, a great man is not the man who never sins or who commits sins in lesser amount than others, but the man who quickly repents. Abraham is great, not because he did not make any mistakes, but because whenever God rebuked him, he quickly repented. King David is great, not because his sin was lighter than others' sins; the sins he committed were of mega-size sin including first degree murder. Yet, when God’s servant rebuked him, he quickly repented. The Apostle Peter is considered to be one of the greatest leaders in God's redemptive history, not because he never sinned, but because, despite his many mistakes, he was quick to repent.

            Why should we repent? We must repent because repentance is our job. No one, not even God, can repent on our behalf. Repentance belongs to man and salvation belongs to God. No matter how seriously God wants to save us, unless we repent of our sins, even God cannot save us from eternal condemnation.

            Fourth, God forgave the repentant Ninevites. Look at v. 10. "When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened." This passage reminds us of Exodus 34:6, where Moses, the man of God and the giver of the law said, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness..." Because of his compassionate heart, God never despises a broken and contrite heart (cf. Psalms 51:17). When we sin greatly, and God's servants rebuke us sharply, we easily despair. But what the Lord did to the repentant Ninevites motivates us not to despair or feel condemned, but to repent of our own wicked ways and come back to him for his forgiveness.

IV. The Lord addresses Jonah's anger (4:1-11)

            Chapter 4 is the epilogue of Jonah. In this part, the Lord addresses Jonah's anger. Let us read vs. 1-3. "But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD, ‘O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.’" Probably Jonah thought that the Ninevites were hopeless cases. Or probably he thought that God was too generous in dealing with notorious sinners like the Ninevites. But in God no one is born 'hopeless.' When one repents, everyone can enjoy God's blessing of sin-forgiveness. So the Lord replied, "Have you any right to be angry?"

            Yet Jonah did not accept the message. He was still angry. In anger, he began to demonstrate against God. Look at v. 5. Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. This demonstration is called a 'sit-in' demonstration. He put up a picket sign saying, "Down to Nineveh! Down to Nineveh!"

            In vs. 6-8, God trained Jonah so that the self-righteous prophet would understand God's heart of compassion. Let us read this part responsively. Probably by that time, Jonah must have been exhausted to the point of death. He did not eat for three days and three nights. The mission journey also drained his strength. Now, as he protested against God's leniency, the scorching sun blazing down on his forehead made him grow faint. While he was in the stomach of the big fish, his stomach swelled like that of a fat frog. But now because of severe dehydration, his stomach became like a flat tire. Once again he felt like dying. But the physical exhaustion was not much of the problem. His mental anguish hurt him the most. So, when God asked him second time, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?" he talked back to God, "I do, I am angry enough to die." In fact, he said, "Lord, I don't understand you because you changed your mind so quickly. It's unfair!"

            What, then, did God say to him? Let us read vs. 10,11. "But the LORD said, 'You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?'" This passage teaches us two things:

            First, God's servant must serve God's mission, not for the sake of himself, but for the sake of the lost. Jonah was not called to feed his pride or satisfy his own sense of justice. God did not pick up Jonah to make Jonah feel good about himself. God picked up and used Jonah to promote the interest of the Ninevites. In the same way, God sends us to his flock, not for the sake of ourselves, but for the sake of his flock. When we forget this fact, we are condemned to fall into the "Jonah's Anger" syndrome.

            Second, God is the God of concern. The word 'concern' or 'concerned' means 'being mindful.' We usually think that, having finished his creation work, God is enjoying a long vacation in God's kingdom doing nothing.

            But this is not true. God is mindful of all peoples on earth, especially those who are spiritually ignorant. The Ninevites were ignorant. They could not tell even their right hand from their left. In this way, to God, all are blind sheep. So God's heart is always broken; therefore it is quite natural that God is greatly concerned about the physical and spiritual well being of all peoples on earth.

            It is in this concern that God called us as his servants. When we know that God is the God of concern, being concerned about ignorant sheep, then we can discern God's broken heart, obey God's command to serve his word, not reluctantly, but with many thanksgiving, not in a self-righteous attitude, but with a very humble and earnest attitude. Then, when one sheep repents as the Ninevites did, we can be greatly joyful rather than being angry like Jonah (Lk 15:10).

            One word: The God of Jonah


_____________________________

1.         What Bible verse shows that Jonah preferred to die than to go to  Nineveh? ___________

2.         What Bible verse shows that Jonah preferred to live and serve the mission than to die? ____________

3.         Why did Jonah at one time want to die than to serve the mission and yet at another become thankful for the opportunity to serve the mission?_________________________________________                                
4.         Why did Jonah at one time go for the mission with joy but at another regret that he had served the mission? _______ ___________________________________________

5.         Jonah stayed inside the fish for _______________.

6.         Read Matthew 12:39. What does “the sign of Jonah” mean?

The end


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Obadiah

The Kingdom Will Be the Lord's

Obadiah 1:1-21
Key Verse 1:21

“Deliverers will go up on Mount Zion to govern the mountains of Esau. And the kingdom will be the LORD's.”

Obadiah is the shortest prophetic book, consisting of just one chapter. Yet it occupies a special position in that it reveals the destiny of all who adopt Edom's way of life.

In Hebrew Edom means "red" (Genesis 25:30). Its variant is “Adam” which is comprised of the same consonants (that is, aleph, daleth, and mem). In the book of Obadiah, Edom is an alternate name for Esau. The meaning of the name Edom suggests that Edom refers to a man who adopts an earthly nature. (Read Colossians 3:5 for a few examples of the earthly nature.)  

Hebrews 4:12 reads, "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow." The word "diving" indicates that man's existence is divisible into different components. It has been said, "Hellenism divides, Hebraism combines." This statement also indicates that whatever is put together can also be disassembled. The point here is that human beings are a combination of different components so that man as a living entity is divisible.

Similarly, Genesis 2:7 reveals to us how the Lord God put different components together. "The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." Emerging out of this discussion is the identity of Edom, that is, a man whose predominant nature is earthly.

Again, Obadiah describes the destiny of Edom. According to one Jewish resource (Trei Asar, the Twelve Prophets Volume 1, published by Mesorah Publications, Ltd. P. 268) the author of the book of Obadiah was a proselyte who used to be an Edomite but turned to worshiping the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. The same resource identifies Obadiah with the one mentioned in 1 King 18, where the man named Obadiah, while serving King Ahab as a royal administrator, secretly protected one hundred prophets from the killing hands of Queen Jezebel. If indeed this assertion is true, the message the prophet Obadiah conveys to us becomes clear, for he proclaimed God’s judgment on people like Queen Jezebel who adopted Esau’s lifestyle, living purely on a carnal level.

Many Bible verses talk about the destiny of those who adopt Edom's way of life. In Genesis 3:19 we are told that upon succumbing to a carnal desire Adam was decreed to return to dust. Genesis 25:23 says that Edom is destined to serve Jacob for flesh cannot and should not be allowed to take leadership over what is spiritual. Hebrews 12:16 says, "See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son." Malachi 1:2-3 say, "I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated." The book of Obadiah however goes into further details about the destiny of Edom. What then is going to happen to Edom (and to all who adopt Edom's way of life)?  

First, let us go against her for battle (1)

According to verse 1 it is the Sovereign Lord who builds a rally among all nations for a battle against Esau. This immediately raises questions: If Edom came from the Lord, why does he go against Edom? If indeed man is divisible into different components, such as dust and the breath of life, why does the Lord promote a battle against what is earthly? If he is going to fight against what is earthly why did he allow the earthly component to be incorporated into the constitution of a human being?

When we consider these questions with what the Bible says about who God is, that is, the Lord God who is good, and good all the time (Psalm 100:5), we can come up with a correct answer to these questions. That is, God has a good reason and purpose in forming man out of dust and then calling a battle against the earthly nature. God does not want man to be dominated by what is earthly. Rather he desires man to overcome and remain dominant over what is earthly. For this reason we can even go to the point of saying that by declaring war against Edom, the Lord God decreed from the beginning that only those who fight against one’s earthbound nature and become dominant over that earthbound nature should inherit his kingdom!

Thus those who adopt an Edomite lifestyle are bound to run afoul with the Lord who is sovereign. Who can possibly fight against the Sovereign Lord and win? No one.

"Rise, and let us go against her for battle." This passage reminds us of the battles King David went through, for in Psalms 35:1-3 he says: "Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take up shield and buckler; arise and come to my aid. Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Say to my soul, ‘I am your salvation.’” It also reminds us of what the Apostle Peter urged the early Christians to do in 1 Peter 2:11, "Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul."

Second, you will be utterly despised (2)

Look at verse 2: "See, I will make you small among the nations; you will be utterly despised." In the day of King Ahab the royal couple Ahab and Jezebel adopted the Edomite lifestyle. Queen Jezebel kept 450 Baal prophets on a government payroll who operated as male prostitutes (1 Kings 18:19). In those days, while the Baal prophets lived in mansions, the Lord’s servants, like the Prophet Elijah, were driven to mountains and deserts. Due to persecutions Elijah had to run away to a deep mountain cave where he lived like a caveman.

What happened in the end to Jezebel? The Lord commanded Elijah to anoint Jehu who in turn caused Jezebel to be thrown down from her window to the ground. Dogs came and devoured her flesh. But the Lord God exalted Elijah by allowing him to go up to heaven, riding a chariot of fire in a whirlwind. The ways in which Jezebel and Elijah finished their life’s journeys here on earth shows us that those who adopt the Edomite lifestyle are destined to become utterly despised, whereas those who live a life that is filled with God's Spirit will be highly exalted.

Third, the pride of your heart has deceived you (3-7)

All love to be great; no one wants to be small. All desire to be exalted; no one wants to be despised. Why is it then that so many adopt the Edomite’s way of life? Let us read responsively verses 3-7. Verse 3 begins, "The pride of your heart has deceived you..." It has been said that war is a deception. The point of the deception is to cause the opponent to make a wrong assessment as to the possibility of winning or losing. Once one is bound to lose and yet thinks that he is going to win, we can say he has been deceived.

Those who adopt the Edomite lifestyle are deceived by the pride of their hearts. In their pride they make a wrong assessment as to whether or not the lifestyle they promote would serve them for good. Obadiah saw the Edomites in his day buy bigger houses in better neighborhoods while thinking that no one could bring them down. But Obadiah saw that that was not going to be the case. Although they could do so well with their hands and achieve such visible results as a better mansion in a nicer neighborhood, eventually what they built with their own efforts would come to nothing. This is a great tragedy. Why do you work so hard only to see that what you achieved comes to nothing? What a waste of resources!!

So the lesson is that we are not to build our life-security here on earth. Life here on earth is a period of preparation for eternity. All the resources in life, such as talents or youth, must be directed to serving God's purpose, that is, building the Lord's kingdom in the hearts of fallen men.

Fourth, will I not destroy the wise men of Edom? (8-9)

Categorically, the Edomites include all who are of earthbound nature as well as those who pursue their earthly desires with aggression. They can be sub-categorized into two classes: the wise (8) and the warriors (9). The wise include lawyers, doctors, philosophers, theorists, strategists, researchers, consultants, investors, artists, scientists, inventors, politicians, and all sorts of gurus like religious gurus and financial gurus. They have brains, so that in their shrewdness and smartness they know how to go and get what they want ever so quickly. Their warriors are just go-getters. In so getting, they ignore morals and ethics. What counts to them is the end; they don’t care whether or not the means are just. Simply, with whatever means available, they go get what they want.  

But will they eventually enjoy for good what they get? No. The Lord God who is sovereign makes it sure that their plans would be thwarted, so that in the end the Lord's purpose alone would prevail. This observation indicates that true wisdom comes from reconciling man's purpose with God's.

Fifth, because of the violence against your brother you will be covered with shame (10-14)

Those who adopt Esau's lifestyle will be hit with tragic consequences for another reason, that is, all the days of their life they project themselves as bad neighbors. In verses 10-14 we find two interesting categorizations: first, the categorization of neighbors, that is, Edom and Jacob; and, second, the categorization of the ways in which an Esau-type person relates himself with his neighbor Jacob.

We glibly say neighbors are those who live close to you. But characteristically there are only two kinds of neighbors: the Esau-type and Jacob-type, not the poor vs. the rich, nor the educated vs. the uneducated, etc. From God's perspective you are either like Esau or like Jacob. In other words, you as a neighbor are either an earth-bound person or a heaven-bound person. You see these two inclinations within yourself as well.

Remember that both Esau and Jacob were conceived in the womb of the same mother. They lived under the same roof, under the same parents, until they parted. Since they were twin brothers they were supposed to love one another. But they did not. They sinned against each other. And the way of the unfaithful is “hard” (Pro 13:15).

It is interesting to note that it is Esau whose life alone is described to go “hard”. Why? We know the answer: Jacob is already under God's training. In a way, Jacob is like a man who gets disciplined ahead of the rest of his siblings. The next in line is Esau. Jacob stole Esau of "heaven's dew" (Genesis 27:28,39). “Heaven's dew” stands for the spiritual blessings, such as the Scriptures, like Moses' Ten Commandments. Every privilege comes with responsibility. Since Jacob disobeyed the Lord’s commands, the Lord disciplined him so that Jacob would learn responsibility. On the part of Esau then he should have humbled himself and remained in support of Jacob. For although Jacob stole him of the heavenly dew, Jacob was bearing up the responsibility which Esau himself had given up.

But what did Esau do? How did he treat Jacob? The passage we just read describes his dealings with Jacob in four ways: violence (10), indifference (or aloofness) (11), looking down on (12), and taking advantage of (13-14). He was violent to Jacob. He stood aloof when his brother Jacob was suffering. And when Jacob’s enemies came and robbed him, Esau joined Jacob’s enemies, and took advantage of Jacob.

These practices indicate that there is animosity between Esau and Jacob. Esau's ill-treatment of Jacob displeases the Lord, so the Lord says, "You will be covered with the same; you will be destroyed forever" (11).

Sixth, there will be no survivors from the house of Esau (15-18)

Verses 15-18 describe the Lord's final judgment on those who adopt Edom’s lifestyle. On the day of the Lord the Lord will judge Edom. The day of the Lord will turn out to be the time when the table will turn in favor of God's people (namely, the house of Jacob and the house of Joseph). While the house of Jacob will be a fire, the house of Joseph will be a flame. Both fire and flame will burn the stubble (the Edomites) reducing the estate of the Edomites to ashes.

Seventh, the kingdom will be the Lord's (19-21)

Look at Verse 18b again: "There will be no survivors from the house of Esau." When there are no survivors, who can possibly inherit the kingdom? No one!

This outcome is what Esau chose from the beginning, for when he sold his birthright for one bowl of lentil soup, he sold not just the right to inherit some family assets but the eternal kingdom. This conclusion (the loss of the eternal kingdom) sounds dogmatic. But as dogmatic as it sounds, this is what the Bible maintains, for in 1 Corinthians 15:50 the Apostle Paul says, "I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." Similarly, Romans 14:17 reads, "[T]he kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit..." But Esau believed in eating and drinking. Edom trusted in what is earthly; Esau despised what gives life to man, that is, the Spirit of God.

In conclusion, in the book of Obadiah we see the destiny of those who adopt the Edomite lifestyle. Against their will they forfeit the right to inherit the Lord’s kingdom. The Prophet Obadiah foresaw that Edomites have no future in God's kingdom. In Hebrew the name Obadiah means "the servant of the Lord." Let us pray then to warn ourselves against the Edomite lifestyle and offer ourselves as the Lord's servant.

One word: the Kingdom will be the Lord's



Class Exercise:

  1. In Hebrew, what do the following words (names) mean?

    1. Edom _________
    2. Jacob _________
    3. Obadiah _________

The end

Monday, August 25, 2014

As I have loved you so you must love one another - John 13:34b

In order to attend the LA UBF Summer Bible Conference I and Rebekah took the Amtrak. It was a 23 hours of train-ride from Redding to the Union Station Los Angeles.


This conference was one of the most beautiful conferences I have attended.

Personally Shepherd William's message touched my heart. In his message he said my first love with Jesus Christ should be the same 'now' as that  of the 'first love' when I first met Jesus. During the hour of singing songs of praise I shed many tears.

At the outset what Shepherd Robert Fishman said in his opening message also touched me. He said that this conference is a 'leaders conference' for the theme is high and noble. His message was heart-moving. I asked him for a copy so I could read it again.

Through the group Bible study the Lord also blessed me with words from 1 John 4:7-8. "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." God is omnipotent. He is omnipresent. And God is love. For the first time in my life I realized that it is only natural for one to love as God (our Lord Jesus) has loved us, for God IS love.

My deepest thanks and praise to the Lord for the conference and for all who served the conference with prayer, music, messages, group Bible studies etc.



Speakers and Testimony Sharers

11 Group Leaders
 
Now that the conference is over, I and Rebekah needed to go back to Redding. So Monday morning we came out to the Union Station located at the down town LA. The train (Coast Starlight #14) is supposed to leave at 10:00 a.m. But due to the earthquake that broke out yesterday in Napa Valley area, the train is going to be delayed. Now we are waiting at the Amtrak Metropolitan Waiting Lounge. The Amtrak officer came out and said the train will soon leave, but he does not know exactly when. Thank God for the delay though, so while waiting at the lounge I could write down my reflection and share it online. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Amos Bible Study

Seek the Lord and Live

Amos 1:1-9:15
Key Verse 5:6

“Seek the LORD and live, or he will sweep through the house of Joseph like a fire; it will devour, and Bethel will have no one to quench it.”

One of the cardinal principles in interpreting the Scriptures correctly for all of their strenuous purposes is to understand the ultimate purpose the author of the Bible (that is, God himself) has in mind. The sixty-six books of the Bible came from God. The whole Bible has one single message, not two or three. Although there are 66 books in the Bible the message that runs through them is one (1) and the same. One of the reasons why there are different books is because the audiences, the generations, and their environments are different.

Tonight we are going to cover Amos, the third book of the 12 Minor Prophets. In giving prophesy through Amos, the Lord conveys the same message - the message which is not different from the message other books are conveying. But the people and their environments are different.

The single message all the books are conveying is the call for all fallen men to be saved into God himself by listening to the message of salvation and thereby forming the unity of love, becoming one with Him. The expression of this message varies, such as the message on the kingdom of God, the call to join the family of God, or the hope to come to the home of righteousness. But the point remains the same. God wants people to become like him.

Like other books of the Bible then Amos cries out to the people of his generation to repent and turn to God. The title of the message reflects the same message: "Seek the Lord and Live."

Now the questions we are going to consider tonight are: 1) Why did the people of Amos's day fall from their secure position? In other words what was the cause of their down-fall? Simply speaking, what was their problem? 2) How did their problem(s) become manifested in their lives? And, 3) Finally, what is the Lord's remedy to their problem(s)?

I. Two years before the earthquake (1:1-2)

A question that arises in examining Amos is, "What gave rise to the prophecy of Amos?" In other words, why did the Lord find it necessary to send the Prophet Amos in addition to his contemporaries such as Isaiah, Micah, or Hosea? We can find an answer to this question in verses 1 and 2. Look at 1:1-2. “The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa--what he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel. He said: ‘The LORD roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds dry up, and the top of Carmel withers.’ ” In many places of the Bible earthquakes hit people not just because of some earth movements; behind it there is always the hand of God. For this reason, even in a business world, such as insurance, they call disasters caused by earthquake or brush fires as “Acts of God.” Indeed, in many instances the Lord employs earthquakes as a means to carry out his judgment on the wicked. Examples include the earthquake that caused the wall of Jericho to come down, so that God's judgment fell upon the people inside [except Rahab and those who belonged to her]. When Korah rebelled against Moses, the Lord let the earth open its mouth to swallow up Korah and those who belonged to him. In the case of Uzziah, God's judgment fell on him when he burned incense in violation of the law of Moses. (2Ch 26:16) It was not unlikely that the earthquake mentioned in v. 1 coincided with the sin of Uzziah. Apparently, its magnitude was so big and extensive that it drew the Prophet Zechariah’s attention that he refers to it to describe the kind of earthquake that will hit Jerusalem at the time of the Lord's [second] coming. (Zec 14:5)

God is an all knowing God. In his eyes all the events that are to occur in the days to come are known as if they have already taken place. It is not inconceivable that the Lord was in apprehension of the sin Uzziah would commit. So it can be said that in anticipation of the wicked violation of the Lord's holiness two years in advance, the Lord established Amos and gave his words to the people of his days.

Describing the cause of the disasters that were decreed to hit the people of Amos' day, 2 Chronicles 26:16 states: "But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God, and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense." As we saw in covering the book of Hosea, the Lord struck Uzziah with leprosy on the spot. In his pride he violated the Lord's holiness and the outcome was leprosy.

Let us stop for a moment and think about the nature of Uzziah's sin. In his pride he burned unauthorized incense. 2 Chronicles 26:18 reads, “They confronted him and said, ‘It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD. That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honored by the LORD God.’ ”
The priests' rebuke indicates that sinners cannot approach God without an intermediary. 1 Timothy 2:5 says, "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus..." These passages tell us that all are sinners and that no one can approach God without going through Jesus, the only mediator. Jesus died for our sins. He rose for our justification. So when we humble ourselves, confess our sins to the Lord, believe in the grace of sin-forgiveness, we then can approach God with confidence.

The point of pride then is to reject Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior. Speaking of this truth, Jesus says in John 3:18, "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." In the case of the people of Amos's day, the priestly system given to Israel through Moses is a type of the reality to come, that is, Jesus Christ. But in his pride Uzziah rejected the necessity for a mediator. The Lord then struck him with leprosy.
From Uzziah's example we learn that a proud person is not someone who brags about his own abilities or his possessions. Rather a proud person is the one who does not admit that he is a sinner and is therefore in need of a mediator, who is Jesus Christ.

II. For three sins, even for four (1:3-9:10)

Amos can be divided into three parts: the first part (1:1-2) points out the cause (that is man's pride) of their downfall; the second part (1:3-9:10) describes God's judgment on the unbelieving nations; and the third part (9:11-15) concerns the vision of the work the Messiah is to fulfill.  

The second part can further be subdivided into two sections, that is, God's judgment on the unbelieving nations (1:3-2:3) and God's impending judgment on the house of Jacob, and the Lord’s call to seek the Lord and live (2:4-9:10). The phrase, "for three sins and even for four," refers to the Lord's long patience. Yet despite the Lord's long patience, when people keep rebelling, the Lord ensures that no sins will go unpunished. God is the God of mercy and the God of justice.

The unbelieving nations remain condemned. Using the law of the conscience the Lord revealed the right way to life, but when they violated the voice of their consciences, God was ready to mete out his judgment upon the unbelieving nations, such as Philistine or Edom.

Unlike the Gentile nations, the house of Jacob had the privilege to receive the way to have their sins forgiven and approach God. But in their pride they rejected the way of God's salvation. King Uzziah's sinful pride was the last straw to the Lord's forbearance. Would someone stand and read Amos 6:8?

Still, however, in his long patience, the Lord urged them to seek the Lord and live through the prophet Amos. Look at 5:4, “This is what the LORD says to the house of Israel: ‘Seek me and live...’ ” Again, Amos 5:14 reads, "Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is." Notice that the Lord exhorted them to seek him first, and then they can seek good. This is consistent with the truth that when one makes a tree good, one naturally sees the tree bearing good fruit, for a good tree cannot bear bad fruit; it is only a good tree that bears good fruit.

In regard to the judgment on all peoples on earth, the Lord distinguishes the house of Jacob from the Gentile nations, for as the Bible continually maintains, although a majority of the people in the house of Jacob were unbelieving, the Lord still left some remnants, such as Amos, so Amos 9:8 reads, “ ‘Surely the eyes of the Sovereign LORD are on the sinful kingdom. I will destroy it from the face of the earth--yet I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob,’ declares the LORD.”

Let us then think about the call to seek the Lord and live. This exhortation teaches us that seeking the Lord is the key to securing life. Most people in the day of Amos sought to make a living by indulging themselves in buying, selling, planting, or building. They made super-human efforts to make a living by chasing after the things of this world, such as real estate; as a result, some were so successful that they built a winter house here and a summer house there. (Amos 3:15) But the Lord says that the efforts to make a living must be directed upward.

“Seek the Lord and live.” The word “seek” suggests that the presence of Lord is not obvious to carnal minds. So one must make efforts to find the Lord. This however does not mean that the Lord plays hide and seek. Rather the opposite is true. In order to help his children to look for him, the Lord intentionally sends troubles, such as locusts, so they would repent and turn to God. Let us read 4:6-13. It is interesting to note that the Lord gave them empty stomachs so that they could seek the Lord. The empty stomach is symbolic of an economy going bad, with people losing jobs. The Lord's approach in helping people to seek the Lord is very much revealing of what is going on in the U.S. for the last couple of years. When one's stomach is full one must be careful for he is in danger of being complacent and thus not seeking the Lord. No wonder that missionaries in less developed countries (such as Mexico) than the U.S. are all in good spirit; with great fervor they all seek the Lord. Each time they pray they all kneel down and offer prayers. In Guadalajara, the average annual income is $10,700. But for new college graduates the average monthly salary is below $500. Yet according to Msn. Hanna Rhee, in an effort to seek the Lord, the student-leaders attended the Purdue Int’l Bible Conference by paying not only for the round trip tickets but also the conference fees.  

III. I will restore David's tent (9:11-15)

Let us rise and read 9:11-15. This passage further elaborates on the prophecy Jeremiah proclaimed. The Lord established Jeremiah to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, and to build and to plant. Indeed, as Jeremiah prophesied the Lord uprooted the house of Jacob and sent them to a foreign land. Then about 8 centuries after Amos’s prophecy, the Lord God sent Jesus Christ, who in turn restored David’s fallen tent. Legally, Jesus is the son of David, for after being born of a Virgin Mary, he was registered into the family of Joseph, a descendant of David. When Jesus was about thirty years old he began his public ministry. The focus of his ministry was to build the kingdom builders. For this purpose, Jesus called the Twelve. Through his disciple making ministry the Lord restored David's fallen tent. Here "tent" is symbolic of a house where family members live together. In the day of Amos the Lord had to declare that the twelve tribes of Israel (collectively called “the house of Jacob”) had to go into exile. But when Jesus came the Lord established the Twelve disciples (who later were called the Apostles), who in turn worked to restore God's kingdom by preaching the gospel to all nations.

Thanks and praise be to God for sending Jesus as a kingdom builder.

One word: Seek the Lord and live



Class Exercise:

1. In Amos 3:3 the Lord asks the whole family (who came out of Egyptian slavery), “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” What is it like for the two to ‘walk together’?

2. Read 2:13-16. What do the following categories of people have in common?

1) The swift; 2) The strong; 3) The warrior; 4) The archer; 5) The fleet-footed; 6) The horseman; and 7) The bravest

3. According to Amos, “a burning stick” refers to: _____________________________

4. What is wrong with the way in which the following exhortations are arranged?

1) Hate evil, love good
2) Seek good, not evil
3) Seek the Lord and live
4) Seek me and live

5. Fill the blanks: “He who made the _________ and _________, who turns ________ into _______ and darkens ______ into _______, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land --- the ______ is his name.”

6. Amos 6:8 reads, “I abhor the pride of Jacob…” What does “abhor” mean?

7. In Hebrew the name “Amos” means “a burden carrier”. What does the meaning of the name Amos and Jesus Christ have in common?