Thursday, June 28, 2012

Jesus the Troublemaker- Matthew 12

Matt.12 At that time wJesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and xthey began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, y“Look, your disciples are doing zwhat is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, a“Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate bthe bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read cin the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, dsomething greater than the temple is here. And if you had known ewhat this means, f‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For gthe Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
He went on from there and hentered their synagogue. 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, i“Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—jso that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, kif it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 lOf how much more value is a man than a sheep! So mit is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And nthe man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

The synoptic gospels spell out a consistent storyline. Jesus has great compassion on the outcasts and wrath for the oppressive religious leaders.

Jesus was under the constant watch and criticism of the opposition- the powerful Pharisees who carried out their version of law keeping which produced fruit of arrogance and ruthlessness.

The attitude and action of Jesus here appears to be somewhat of a goading- He seems to purposely defy the man-added regulations and provokes the Pharisees to continue to conspire against Him- as they were seeking to destroy Jesus. Both accounts here in Chapter 12 clearly show Jesus as one who is stirring the pot for a purpose.

But here is where we tend to miss the contrast.

Jesus plays the trouble maker for Holy motives. He has no fear of man, He has a clear mission to accomplish from the Father, and it has nothing to do with His own ambition or ego.

I can't relate to that.

I am a competitive person by nature. And I often find when I choose to confront or manipulate- it is MOSTLY from impure motives. The part of me that enjoys goading people is never really out of Holy motives. The part of me that loves playing machiavellian maneuvers is usually designed according to my sinful nature.

I also find myself easily provoked as a Pharisee as well. When someone confronts me or suggests impure motives, I am quick to repel it with the same animosity that these religious oppressors portray.

I want to be more like Jesus- but find myself so different from Him and so much more like the opposition.

It makes me cry out for the healing. I have withered hands and heart.

The self protecting part of me says to withdraw, protect, and judge.

But Jesus says, "Open up and stretch out to Me".

And when I find the healing- the fruit should be mercy to others.

Do you ever struggle over whether you are born again?

Well here is a good question to begin with......

What is your attitude toward trouble makers?

Monday, June 25, 2012

End Time Stew, Is it Ready?- Zechariah 12

Been reading the headlines lately? The Arab spring, European economic woes and austerity rebellion, the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt, slaughter in Syria. Read the passage below, written over 2500 years ago, and tell me that the Bible is not relevant:


 iThe oracle of the word of the Lord concerning Israel: Thus declares the Lordjwho stretched out the heavens and kfounded the earth and jformed the spirit of man within him: Behold, I am about to make Jerusalem la cup of staggering to mall the surrounding peoples. The siege of Jerusalem nwill also be against Judah. oOn that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoplespAll who lift it will surely hurt themselves. And mall the nations of the earth will gather against itoOn that day, declares the LordqI will strike every horse rwith panic, and its rider rwith madness. But for the sake of the house of Judah I will keep my eyes open, when I strike every horse of the peoples rwith blindness. Then the clans of Judah shall say to themselves, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem have strength through the Lord of hosts, their God.’o“On that day I will make the clans of Judah slike a blazing pot in the midst of wood, like a flaming torch among sheaves. Andtthey shall devour to the right and to the left all the surrounding peoples, while uJerusalem shall again be inhabited in its place, in Jerusalem.
And the Lord will give salvation to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not surpass that of Judah. oOn that day vthe Lord will protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that wthe feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, xlike the angel of the Lord, going before them.oAnd on that day yI will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.10 And zI will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and zpleas for mercy, so that,awhen they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, bthey shall mourn for him, cas one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. 11 oOn that day dthe mourning in Jerusalem will be as great eas the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo12 The land shall mourn, feach family1 by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of gNathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; 13 the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of hthe Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves; 14 and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves.

Zechariah13 iOn that day there shall be ja fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.
“And ion that day, declares the Lord of hosts, kI will cut off the names of the idols from the land, so that lthey shall be remembered no more. And also mI will remove from the land the prophets and the spirit of uncleanness. And if anyone again prophesies, his father and mother who bore him will say to him, n‘You shall not live, for you speak lies in the name of the Lord.’ And his father and mother who bore him shall pierce him through when he prophesies.On that day oevery prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies. He will not put on a hairy cloak in order to deceivebut he will say, p‘I am no prophet, I am a worker of the soil, for a man sold me in my youth.’1 And if one asks him, ‘What are these wounds on your back?’2 he will say, ‘The wounds I received in the house of my friends.’

Awake, O sword, against qmy shepherd,against the man who stands next to me,”declares the Lord of hosts.r“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered;I will turn my hand against the little ones.In the whole land, declares the Lord,two thirds shall be cut off and perish,sand one third shall be left alive.And tI will put this third into the fire,and refine them as one refines silver,and test them as gold is tested.uThey will call upon my name,and vI will answer them.wI will say, ‘They are my people’;and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”

This is an amazing passage of Scripture. It seems to clearly be about the 2nd coming of Jesus where the first part of Zechariah seems to fit the 1st coming of the Messiah. 
Here is an amateur take on what this passage refers to. 
There will be a day when all of the world will be gathered (in God's providence) under the direction of Satanic power to finally wipe Israel off the face of the earth. It will be a bloody  war and 2/3 will not survive. 
But just as this global assault looks like it will win, even pushing into Jerusalem... The Lord Himself will show up and cause Israel to be victorious.
I find it fascinating that He will cause confusion and 'blindness' of the horses. If I am just to make a guess, the highly technical weapons will fail and there will rise up an army of God inspired warriors who fight like King David and wins. They will be like a blazing pot in the fire (strong and withstands the heat), a flaming torch burning up the sheaves, and a 'rock' that the world will be injured by trying to lift, and a bowl of wrath that will cause the invading army to be reeling. Don't mess with Israel.
A key to all of this is the repeated phrase 'on that day' which is a reference to the day of the Lord.

Then an amazing miracle will happen. Salvation will come in mass to the Jews who are left in the land. They will see that the Lord Himself has kept His covenant promises and their spiritual eyes will be opened.

By the way- ch 13:7-9 is as amazing a section as any in the OT. What must happen before this great fountain of cleansing can be opened? Pain must come and more specifically the Sword must fall on the shepherd. Could there be any more amazing reference to the cross than this?

Jesus drank this cup 2000 years ago and is still waiting to consummate the marriage feast. All he needs is the Father to say, "It is time".

There will be great repentance (the individual mourning of the remnant) and great faith in Jesus, they will see the nail pierced Savior, and that salvation will have dramatic results (this is why I had to include ch 13 as well)

1) A fountain of grace
2) Removal of idols
3) False prophets forsake their false gospels
4) Unrepentant false teachers are removed
5) Sanctified believers will be declared once again to be the people of God. 

I know there may be other ways to read this passage- but this interpretation could very well come true in out lifetime- sooner than we all think.

The Bible is clear- there are some who will be caught off guard and not make it. These are not the days to be caught sleeping at the wheel. Trim the wicks and fill the oil- every day is a good day to be ready for His return.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Last Look From Hosea 12 - It is Glorious

Hosea 12:8 Ephraim has said, “Ah, but kI am rich;I have found wealth for myself;
in all my labors lthey cannot find in me iniquity or sin.”
mI am the Lord your God
from the land of Egypt;
I will again make you ndwell in tents,
as in the days of the appointed feast.

It is one thing to be lost.
It is another to be lost, but not know it.
It is one thing to be out of favor with God.
It is quite another to be out of favor with God, but so deceived that we think we are in His blessing.

Hosea 12 presents Israel in such a vile state.

They were wicked, but they seemed to not know it.
They saw their state as being evidence of God's favor, but were actually being prepared for God's wrath because of their wickedness.

They were fooled by the precepts of men and blinded to the truth of God's Word and prophets.

Dr. Thomas Constable writes on this issue:

The Israelites considered their wealth a blessing from God that they interpreted as due to their cleverness and His approval of their lifestyle. Really it was due to His grace in spite of their sins. 

As I read this attitude from Israel in Hosea 12, I am reminded of Jesus' message to the Church in Laodicea in Rev. 3
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the pAmen, qthe faithful and true witness, rthe beginning of God's creation.15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. sWould that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 tFor you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, ublind, and naked.18 I counsel you vto buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and wwhite garments so that you may clothe yourself and xthe shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, uso that you may see. 19 yThose whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.20 Behold, I stand at the door and zknock. aIf anyone hears my voice and opens the door, bI will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 cThe one who conquers, dI will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as eI also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 pHe who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
Is there any part of this message that causes concern? It does to me! I am a product of the west and I live in relative peace and prosperity. I enjoy luxury and leisure. 

This creates a casualness. I find my attitude to trend toward pride (look at me, I am such a good believer) and can justify my love of luxury as 'God blesses me because I am good'. These are dangerous attitudes.

Where would I be without the hope of the gospel? But in this beautiful message, I need to seriously consider God's constant call for repentance and loyal love for my King.

Hosea 12 continues:

oI spoke to the prophets;it was I who multiplied pvisions,and through the prophets gave parables.11 qIf there is iniquity in Gilead,they shall surely come to nothing:rin Gilgal they sacrifice bulls;stheir altars also are like stone heapston the furrows of the field.12 uJacob fled to the land of Aram;there Israel vserved for a wife,and for a wife he guarded sheep.13 By wa prophet xthe Lord brought Israel up from Egypt,and by a prophet he was guarded.14 yEphraim has given bitter provocation;so his Lord zwill leave his bloodguilt on himaand will repay him for his disgraceful deeds.
There is so much going on in this passage. Word games, deep allusions, and a strong reminder.

The mention of the wickedness in Gilead and Gilgal has multiple layers of meaning.

In some ways it is a geographical reference- kind of like saying 'From sea to shining sea'. In other words, 'you are not pleasing Me- your sin is found from east to west'.

But it is even more than that:
The heritage of Jacob is still in full view.
There are links here to Reuben, Gad, Manasseh, Leah, and even back to Ephraim and all the family controversy that continues to this day.

There is history in Gilead (west of the Jordan). In Genesis 31, Laban took over Jacob and God showed grace to Jacob as Rachel lied, and Jacob foolishly promised, and there was a heap of stones that divided Jacob and Laban for good. Gilead was a place of bloody footprints due to the sacrifice to idols. 

(I wish I had time to write of the 'Balm in Gilead' and the narrator crying out for it in Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven)

Gilgal (East of the Jordan)- The play on words is that, in Hebrew, there is a connection to the pagan altars at Gilgal which both sound like 'pile of stones'. Their altars, piles of stones, are as useful as stones in a farmer's field. They will be thrown out because they are a hindrance to growth.

The bottom line:

Yes, Israel was strong and rich and felt 'untouchable'. But they had had humble origins. They had been wilderness wanderers, they had been sheep herders, they had been in the clutches of ruthless men and manipulators before.

And God was willing to put them right back into exile and humility and dependency if they continued in their arrogance and idolatry.

Closing points:

Ephraim has given bitter provocation;so his Lord zwill leave his bloodguilt on himaand will repay him for his disgraceful deeds.

Take away the name Ephraim in that verse and replace it with your name.

(Jay Mathews) has given bitter provocation;so his Lord zwill leave his bloodguilt on himaand will repay him for his disgraceful deeds.

This verse is how we all stand in the presence of God's Holy throne.

Ephraim- ME-You- so blessed by God, so loved by God. We have seen Him come through for us time and time again.

But we have given BITTER PROVOCATION...why?

We are COVERED in bloodguilt...How?

I am not as thankful as I should be.
I am more in love with the world than in love with God.
I haven't told people faithfully about the good news of Jesus Christ.
I have passively watch sin after sin after sin go on around me and shrugged my shoulders.
My country is polluted in abortions, and pornography, and people hurting and being hurt.
I don't pray or worship like I should.
I don't give and serve like I should.

The cup of God's Wrath is just about to overflow on me and I deserve it.
I fall down to take it in fear.

And I look up.... and I see it..... all fall on the cross of Jesus Christ !!!!!
My Savior is trembling in pain and agony.

The God I provoked loved me so much that He took MY PROVOCATION on HIMSELF.
He then plunged me, stained in bloodguilt, and washed me clean in the blood of the Lamb!!!!!

The only thing I added to my forgiveness was sin.

I have spent the last several weeks weighed down in the judgement of the Old Testament. God's prophets were killing me with the truth of their observations.

And every time I tremble. I turn to the cross of glory and weep with joy!

My friend, reading this today, do you see it?
Can you believe it?

Why would you ever want to drift away from Jesus? Look what He has done for you!

That is why today, I am celebrating.

And yes- I need to keep driving to pursue Him and leave my life of selfishness and luxury and ease and apathy. And I am confident that He will get me there.

But I do it in praise....not in guilt or fear.