None of us knows the future; no, not one. Only the prideful think they do.

“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!  13 For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north;  14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’  15 Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.

Isaiah 14:12-15 

Isaiah 13 and 14 were likely penned about the fall of Babylon in around 732 AD.  That was over 200 years before  Babylon fell to the Medo-Persian armies in around 516 AD. (Remember AD years get smaller, not larger, as time moves forward.)  In fact, Isaiah wrote chapters 13 & 14 before Babylon was even a super power.  When these chapters were written, Assyria was the super power in the near east.  Assyria defeated Israel in the North in 722 AD, and then fell to the Babylonians in 616 AD.  Years later in 586 AD, Babylon conquered Judah in the South—who after 70 years, were liberated and allowed to return home in 516, when the Medo-Persians sacked Babylon.

Why the history lesson including dates?

First, what is written in God’s Word is true and it happened in history, not fictional fantasy.

Second, only God knows the future and He had prophets write the future before it happened to verify that these are not the writings of mere men.

Third, Isaiah 14:12-15 foretells of God’s plan to wipe Babylon off the map and why.  And why did God decree the destruction of Babylon?  As judgment on their pride—thinking they were greater than God Himself.  Foolishness!

But that prophecy is also written in a manner that looks back to the fall of Lucifer from being an archangel to the devil.  Again why?  Pride.

Let us not only learn our history, but a most valuable lesson about what lies ahead for the prideful.

"Peoples"? or "People"?

Hear, all you peoples! Listen, O earth, and all that is in it! Let the Lord GOD be a witness against you, The Lord from His holy temple.

Micah 1:2 

God’s plan was never limited to Israel.  His plan was always to save people from every tribe, tongue and nation.  His plan will be fully accomplished as seen in Revelation 7:9-10.

This saving of “the nations” or the “peoples,” was not Plan B because Plan A failed when the people of Israel rejected their Messiah (John 1:11).

God intended for the Jews to be a light to the Gentile nations bringing them the truth about Him (Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, 52:10, 60:3; John 8:12; Acts 13:47, 26:23). *

Here the prophet Micah cries out to the “peoples” referring not to all people, but to every people group.  He cries out to the “earth and all who live in it” (NIV).   And what does Micah say?  The Lord God is a witness against us all!  “All have sinned” (Romans 3:23).  All have broken God’s Law (James 2:10).  “All have fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  Therefore all are guilty before a holy God no matter how well we stack up against other sinners.  This is bad news indeed.

But the prophet Micah is also the one who announced the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem in Micah 5:2.  Jesus, the sovereign God of the universe was born in insignificant Bethlehem so He could live, die, and rise from the dead to secure complete and final forgiveness for those He came to save—a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation, who will ever be the Israel of God.

* Many verses (not all) are cited to demonstrate that this is not an obscure doctrine without overwhelming scriptural support.

Are you prepared to meet your God?

“Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; Because I will do this to you, Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”

Amos 4:12

God sent the prophet Amos with a message of judgment on six pagan nations.  Each message was short, though not sweet.  Amos delivered a seventh short message to Judah (in the South), but the longest (the last seven of nine chapters) was for Israel (in the North.)  God denounced Israel for many things: violence, injustice, idolatry, and false outward shows of worship of God.  One of the most terrifying statements is God’s promise that He will visit them with the judgments He promised them, followed by the words: “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”

Every human being who has ever lived either has or will meet and answer to God.  Like it or not!  There is a day of reckoning—of Judgment.  The standard by which each will be judged is the righteousness of God.  Next to that standard,  we have all fallen infinitely short—no matter how poorly or well we may do when comparing ourselves with fellow sinners.

Everyone is guilty before God and all will meet Him for judgment. Every human being is in real trouble.

But Wait!

There is a way to prepare to meet our God.  It isn’t the way of trying harder.  Even if we could be perfect from now on (which we can’t!), that would do nothing to undo the sins we have already committed, which by themselves would condemn us.

The only way to prepare to meet our God is to trust in Jesus Christ.  Because we are all sinners and have no hope of saving ourselves, Jesus lived sinlessly and died vicariously (that is, in our place) to pay the penalty for our sins.  His death in our place only helps us if and when we trust in Him, and Him alone for forgiveness.  Prepare to meet your God by trusting in Jesus.  If you do there will be no judgment because Jesus already took that judgment for those who trust Him.

Godliness only when someone is looking

Now after the death of Jehoiada the leaders of Judah came and bowed down to the king. And the king listened to them. Therefore they left the house of the LORD God of their fathers, and served wooden images and idols; and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem because of their trespass. Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the LORD; and they testified against them, but they would not listen.

2 Chronicles 24:17-19

Jehoiada was a godly priest when 7-year old Joash became king of Judah.  Obviously, Joash was not ready to rule the nation, so Jehoiada took the lad under his wing and saw that Joash led the nation back to serving the Lord.  “Back to serving the Lord?”  Yes.  During the previous six years Judah was ruled by wicked Athaliah (daughter of Israel’s Queen Jezabel!), who began her evil reign over Judah by murdering all the heirs to David’s throne—all but the baby Joash who was safely hidden.  During Athaliah’s disastrous usurping of the throne of David, Judah plunged headlong in to every sort of idolatry.  Not surprisingly, the nation suffered!

Under Joash’s reign (under Jehoida’s godly influence), Judah returned to the Lord and experienced God’s blessings.  When Jehoida died however, Joash listened to the people instead of to God, and like a dog returning to its vomit, the nation chose to return to their former ways of idolatry.  Not surprisingly, God’s displeasure was evident as the nation suffered under the rest of Joash’s rule.

Here are two take-aways:  First, that Joash was only good as long as Jehoida was alive, but turned from the Lord when the priest died, is a sober reminder that it isn’t enough to start well if one finishes badly.  This is also why we must not stop praying for our children’s salvation until they are walking with the Lord independently of us; since when many taste “freedom,” they lose all taste for the things of the Lord!

Second, why do people who have known the bitterness of sin and its consequences, who then taste the sweetness of God’s blessing, so often return to what they should know is a recipe for spiritual disaster?  It must be partly that we are forgetful and partly that we are stupid.  God have mercy on our nation, that is largely enamored with godlessness and sin—thinking that doing what history has demonstrated will not work, will be good.  It will be our undoing as it was in Joash’s day.

Why do bad people do good things?

However Jehu did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin, that is, from the golden calves that were at Bethel and Dan…  31  But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart; for he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, who had made Israel sin.

2 Kings 10:29 & 31

People like to ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  Here is a similar question: “Why do bad people do good things?”

King Jehu (Israel in the North), may have appeared to be a good king since earlier in this same chapter (v.18-28) we read that he killed all the priests of Baal (a false god of the Canaanites, that the Israelites frequently were tempted to worship instead of God). This action appears to be laudable since Baal worship was altogether detestable to God.  That Jehu accomplished this purging of Baal worship by lying, trickery, and deceit is another story for another day.

However good Jehu may have appeared to be while ridding the land of Baal worship, scripture is even more clear that Jehu was not a godly king (v.29 & 30).  After all, he followed in the “sins of Jeroboam,”*  and “took no heed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart.”

What do we make of bad people doing good things?  First, God providentially uses even sinful people to accomplish His sovereign will.  Second, since no amount of good deeds can undo sinful deeds, Jehu was not a good king.  And let us not make the mistake of thinking that one’s good deeds can outweigh and undo one’s sins either in our lives or the lives of people around us.  The only way to have one’s sins forgiven is to trust in Jesus Christ, who alone can forgive sins.

*The “sins of Jeroboam” were related to the false worship of golden calves concocted by Jeroboam, the first king of Israel when Israel split into two nations (Israel and Judah) immediately after Solomon died.

Are believers ever foolish?

And Jehoshaphat said, "Is there not still a prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of Him?" So [Ahab] the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "There is still one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the LORD; but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil."

1 Kings 22:7-8 

The backstory is important.  Ahab, king of Israel (in the north) was an exceedingly evil and godless king.  Jehoshaphat, king of Judah (in the south) was a good and godly king, but not always wise.  Ahab wanted to war with the pagans in Ramoth Gilead.  He enlisted Jehoshaphat’s alliance—which Jehoshaphat foolishly agreed to.  Ahab summoned a number of false prophets who would tell him whatever he wanted to hear—which they did, promising victory.

Upon hearing the false prophets, Jehoshaphat asked about hearing from a prophet of the true and living God (novel idea!).

Ahab’s response is classic and it continues to reverberate among a vast number of so-called evangelicals to this day.

God’s Word is not bad—but it is always true!  Too many people do not like God’s Word preached because it doesn’t make them feel good—as if that was the point!  Feeling good about the preaching of God’s Word happens when the truth is proclaimed and we embrace that truth.  Feeling bad about the preaching of God’s Word happens when people dislike the truth according to God!

Oh, and by the way, God providentially saw that Ahab was killed in the battle (recorded dramatically in 1 Kings 22:33-39).

Thoughts on an empty life

"Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher; "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." What profit has a man from all his labor In which he toils under the sun?

Ecclesiastes 1:2-3

Ecclesiastes is one of the most pertinent books of the Bible for modern man.  In a day and age in which people generally do not know why they exist, or where they are headed, either in life or after their deaths, Ecclesiastes speaks of, and to, life’s apparent meaninglessness.

There is one key word and one key phrase in (1:2-3) which are often repeated throughout the book. 

The word is “vanity.”  The word “vanity” means emptiness, futility, or meaninglessness.  The book repeatedly points to things that are often thought to be vital, and calls them vain. 

The phrase is “under the sun,” which provides the context of life’s emptiness.  We understand the book when we bear in mind that “under the sun” refers to life without God.  Compare the vanity of life “under the sun” with life lived under the Lordship of the SON of God—which is the only way life makes real sense.

Ecclesiastes constantly reminds us that while some things are vain in and of themselves, apart from living with a biblical awareness of God, even things that might otherwise have meaning, become meaningless.

The conclusion of the book (12:13-14) reveals two wonderful truths.  First, life only has meaning when it is lived in obedience to God.  Second, since none of us has ever lived perfectly obedient lives.  If we would have anything to look forward to when we die, we’d best put our trust in the One who has lived in perfect obedience: Jesus Christ.

What most do not know about debt and co-signing

he rich rules over the poor, And the borrower is servant to the lender. Proverbs 22:7

My son, if you become surety for your friend, If you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, You are snared by the words of your mouth; You are taken by the words of your mouth… Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, And like a bird from the hand of the fowler. Proverbs 6:1-2, & 5

Funny isn’t it?  Christians say they believe the Bible is the Word of God, and yet when it comes to many details of life, the Word of God is set aside in favor of the world’s wisdom—if we dare call it wisdom.

This is abundantly clear when it comes to money and indebtedness.

The Word of God calls debt, slavery.  Yet statistically, Christians are no less commonly in debt than our unbelieving family and friends.  Why isn’t what God’s Word says about debt as important as other biblical issues?  It is a faith issue.  We do not believe God because we believe the money lenders.

And then there is the issue of cosigning.  God’s Word says if you have done this, get out of this financial entanglement with the intensity that a gazelle displays when running from a hungry lion.  What is the issue?  If debt is a form of bondage we need to stay out of, why would we assist others in getting into debt?  Are we helping them?  Why isn’t this as important as other biblical instruction?  It may be an issue of ignorance since so many people don’t seem to realize the Bible says this about co-signing—which is evidence that some maybe aren’t reading God’s Word much.  If we do know what God’s Word says, but engage in cosigning anyway, this too then is a faith issue.  We do not believe God.

The book of Proverbs is one we should read over and over again throughout our lives, taking careful notes on the practical lessons God teaches throughout.  And then, we would do well to heed His Word.

Most don't know how to read Proverbs

The proverbs of Solomon: A wise son makes a glad father, But a foolish son is the grief of his mother.

—Proverbs 10:1 

Proverbs are generalities, not laws or promises.  They are very generally true, but we must not assume that if we do “A”, “B” will always be the result.  And beware that some Proverbs are observations of what is true, even of what God does not approve of.

Proverbs are mostly written in couplets of two phrases that are generally connected by either the word “and” or “but.”  If connected by “and,” the two phrases are stating a similarity of the two.  If connected by “but,” the two phrases are stating a difference between the two.  The similarities or differences shed light in understanding the lesson to be learned.

Proverbs are Messianic, or about Jesus.  The theme of a father giving wise counsel to his son runs throughout the Proverbs.  The word “son” appears 45 times in 41 verses.  Of those, we read either of the wise son who pleases his father, or the foolish son who shames his father.  The Proverbs are Messianic, in that while we sinners are so often foolish, and displease our Heavenly Father, Jesus is the one and only perfectly wise Son who only always pleases Him.  See this in the New Testament where at Jesus’ baptism and at the Transfiguration, 6 times the Father speaks audibly saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  It is significant that as the only wise Son of the Father, Jesus not only lived sinlessly, keeping the Law for we who have lived lawlessly, but He also lived wisely, following every bit of wise counsel contained in the Proverbs for we who have lived foolishly. 

So in addition to reading the Proverbs to learn wisdom for your life, remember that we fall short of God’s standard of wisdom found in the Proverbs.  Our foolishness displeases our Heavenly Father.  And be reminded that Jesus fulfilled all wisdom for those He came to save, so that the Father sees all those who are “in Christ” as wise sons in whom He is well pleased.

My salvation isn't about me?

When all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed their faces to the ground on the pavement, and worshiped and praised the LORD, saying: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever.”

—2 Chronicles 7:3

When Solomon’s Temple was consecrated according to God’s instructions,  God was pleased to reveal something of His glory.  The manifestation of His glory on that day was on a grand scale: Fire came down from Heaven to consume the sacrifices (v.1).  God’s glory was demonstrated so dramatically that the priests could not enter the temple (v.2).  And the response of God’s people?

They bowed before God, faces on the ground.  They worshiped and praised God.  And they acknowledged God as being “good,” and that “His mercy endures forever.”

What energizes us about God?  We are grateful when He answers our prayers and gives us what we want, and well we should be.  But consider this: The supreme reason to bow, worship, and acknowledge both God’s goodness and His eternal mercies is not because of what we are receiving from Him.  The supreme reason is His glory.

One of the most important lessons to learn if we would understand God and the gospel is that even our salvation is not about us.  It is about His glory.  When we see His glory, we know His goodness and His mercy.

Cry out to God now; later may be too late

"For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You In a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters They shall not come near him."

—Psalm 32:6

Note the following:

First, the ungodly do not really pray to God.  Being lost in sin keeps the supposed prayers of the ungodly--besides a true prayer of confession of sin and request for salvation from reaching God.  Instead of being true prayers to God, these so-called prayers are to god’s the ungodly imagine, for things they would have done for them while they still reject Christ.

Second, by contrast, the godly pray to God, the one and only true and living God, the God of the Bible.  Why are the godly here instructed to pray to God “when He may be found”?  Is God not always to be found by the godly?  Yes, but note the context of this Psalm: it is about confession of sin.  Let the godly be instructed to confess our sins to God straight away, without delay.  Why?  Because the longer we dismiss our sins by a lack of confession, we are apt to dismiss our sins and become content to live in a state of broken fellowship with God.

Lastly, Proverbs 1:23-33 warns those who do not cry out to God for grace and to receive His forgiveness by faith in Christ, may well cry out when it is too late.  On that day, and no one knows when it may come, that one will call out only to hear God refuse to hear, referring him to cry out to the gods he preferred over the God of the Bible for so long.

Please read Proverbs 1:23-33. It is rather scary.

As David loved Absalom, God loves His guilty children

“O my son Absalom—my son, my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!”

—2 Samuel 18:33

One way that David was a man after God’s own heart was in his love for his sinful erring son, Absalom.  Absalom was a murderer (he killed his brother Amnon in chapter 13).  Discontent for his father to rule, he usurped the role of king, setting up his own kingdom in place of David’s.  Adding insult to injury, he defiled some of his father’s concubines in broad daylight. 

When David’s men were about to retake the kingdom, David gave strict instructions to “deal gently” with Asalom.  After all, though he was an outlaw, he was still David’s son.  David’s military man, Joab, ever zealous for David’s honor—and as ruthless as he was loyal—killed Absalom.

When David was made aware, he lamented, “O my son Absalom—my son, my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place!” He loved his son, who sinned grievously against him, wishing he could have died in his place.  But alas, David could not.

God loves His erring children; we who are murders at heart, usurpers who refuse His rule and insist on reigning in our make-believe kingdoms.  As Absalom deserved exactly what he got, so we deserve death for our crimes against the Almighty.  But He loves us.  And He was willing to die in our place.  The difference is, while David could not, God not only could but did.  Jesus is God.  When He died on the cross, He willingly died in our place.

Listen again to the love of David for His guilty son Absalom and hear the echo of the love of God for His guilty sons.

Flattery is harmless. Really?

I have a message from God in my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before their eyes. In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.

—Psalm 36:1-2

While a positive word of encouragement or thanks is a good thing, flattery poses a serious danger.  What is the difference?  When offering encouragement and thanks, we must take care not to go overboard by exalting the person.  Focus on what the person did rather than on the goodness of the person.  Flattery, on the other hand, makes too much of the person.  Why is flattery so dangerous?  Because it encourages pride in the recipient.

Beside the flattery we may receive from another, we must be doubly careful not to flatter ourselves, as mentioned specifically in Psalm 36:2.  One of the most lethal results of self-flattery is that the prideful soon grow blind to, and therefore fail to turn from, their sins.  The NIV renders (v.2) this way: “In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.”

Those who flatter themselves become prideful.  They often begin to look down on others—noticing and judging their sins.  In the end (and the end comes all too quickly!) they become blind to their own sins, are unrepentant, maybe even proving that they are unregenerate.

Verse one says of these people, “There is no fear of God in their eyes.”  That is a serious problem.

What you can do for God is irrelevant

“Wherever I have moved about with all Israel, have I ever spoken a word to any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people, saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?’”

—1 Chronicles 17:6

David was settled into his house in Jerusalem.  He got to thinking, “I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord is under tent curtains.”  That didn’t seem right to David so he purposed in his heart to build a permanent temple for the Lord.  He even got the go-ahead from Nathan the prophet.

But as verses 3-14 record, God spoke to Nathan, who in turn informed David regarding God’s heart on the matter.  In short, building a temple wasn’t God’s idea, but David’s.  God neither wanted nor needed a permanent temple.  In fact, instead of allowing David to build a “house” of stone for God, God pledged to build an everlasting “house” for David—a house built by and on the Lord Jesus Christ.

I am instructed in several issues by this.  First, my ideas about how to worship and serve God are not needed nor wanted by God.  He tells me how to worship and serve Him.  What does that say about all the creative ideas that men concoct about ministry, that are nowhere to be found in God’s Word?

Second, just as Nathan was wrong until God enlightened him in the matter (v.2), even the most godly person can be wrong.  What made Nathan and David truly godly was their willingness to shelve their plans when God made His clear.

What is truly important is not what any of us can do for God, but what He has done and continues to do for us in the person of Christ Jesus.  When we get that through our heads, like David in the twelve verses that conclude the chapter, we will worship and extol God for who He is and for all that He does on our behalf for His eternal glory.

Understanding how I got what I have changes everything about generosity

But who am I, and who are my people, That we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, And of Your own we have given You.

— 1 Chronicles 29:14

The particulars of this verse have to do with the Israelites bringing their offerings to build Solomon’s temple.

The principle is a reminder regarding any generosity and giving we might engage in.  There is no room for boasting about giving when we remember that we have nothing but what the Lord has given us in the first place.

This is true whether we are giving our tithes and offerings as an act of worship in the church, or to support other ministries, or giving gifts to family and friends, or to a homeless person on the street.  Nothing we can possibly give, was not first given to us—by the Lord God.

Someone says, “Nothing was given to me. I earned it!”  Really?  Who gave you the mind, or the strength, or the opportunity to earn what you have worked for?  Was that not also given to you by the Lord?

This is not to belittle the fact that some work harder than others for what they have.  This does not negate the fact that some are far more giving of what they have than others.  But when all we have or give is ours first by the grace of God, does that not shed a new ray of light on our giving?  Let us be reminded that we are responsible to work to have something to give (Ephesians 4:28); that we are to give generously (2 Corinthians 9:6-7); and ultimately, that the glory for our giving belongs to the Lord Himself.  After all, He has supplied all we might ever give—from the opportunity to earn, to the wealth to share, to the heart to give.

Lord, thank You for giving to me enough that I might also give.  And transform my heart to be more giving, especially in light of how much You give (John 3:16).

Can you see Jesus in the Old Testament?

"When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 2 Samuel 7:12-13

God forbade David to build a temple for His dwelling place.  The first reason, of course is that God cannot be contained in a single place, much less a building made by human hands (Isaiah 66:1-2).

Beyond that, God disallowed David to be the builder because He was a man of war and bloodshed (1 Chronicles 28:3).

But God promised that David’s son would be a king and that he would build a house for God.  We know that David’s son, Solomon, succeeded David as king of Israel, and Solomon did built a great temple.  But, was Solomon the only one in God’s mind when promising David a son who would build a temple for the Lord?

Prophecy often, and this is no exception, has both a near and a far fulfillment—a soon and a much later fulfillment.  When God gave David His promise of a kingly son who would build a temple, He spoke of Solomon as the sooner fulfillment of the promise, and of Jesus as the later (and ultimate) fulfillment. 

Solomon was a great king, and he did build a great temple.  But what about the promise that the kingdom of David’s son would be forever?  Solomon’s kingdom ended, and in disgrace.  His temple lasted for some 400 years—before being destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC.

The reign of David’s greater Son, King Jesus, is forever.  And while Jesus built no temple of stone, He is building an eternal temple made of “living stones” (1 Peter 2:4-5), that is the “habitation of God” (Ephesians 2:21-22).

Let us read the Bible, the Old Testament in particular, with eyes to see that it is about Jesus!