2085.) Micah 5

April 28, 2017

Israel is building a “separation fence” along and within the West Bank.  When finished, the wall will be almost 500 miles long.  Here, at Bethlehem, it is  26 feet tall of solid concrete.  The people who live in “O Little Town of Bethlehem” must face loss of land, increased difficulty in accessing medical, educational, and employment facilities on the other side of the wall, and restricted access to water sources.

Micah 5 (ESV)

The Ruler to Be Born in Bethlehem

1 Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops;
siege is laid against us;
with a rod they strike the judge of Israel
on the cheek.
2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,

Luke 2:1-7 (NLT)

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.  (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.  And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.  She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.

The Bible tells us that Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. (Revelation 22:13) This means from the very beginning, Jesus was there.  There was never a time when Jesus did not exist.

Before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, He existed as the Second Person of the Trinity (John 17:5, 17:24). These passages tell us that there was a relationship of love, fellowship, and shared glory that the Father and the Son shared in eternity past. The name “Jesus” was not known as a name for the Second Person of the Trinity until the angel Gabriel announced it to Mary (Luke 1:31).  But the eternal Son existed before He revealed Himself as “Jesus.”

Before Bethlehem, Jesus was the creator of all things (Colossians 1:16-17, John 1:1-3). “He was before all things. As he is the Creator of all things, so he is the Eternal, and no part of what was created. All being but God has been created. Whatever has not been created is God. But Jesus is the Creator of all things; therefore he is God; for he cannot be a part of his own work.” (Clarke)

In the Old Testament, Jesus appeared as God made visible or “The Angel of the Lord.” There are many instances in the Old Testament where individuals are shown to have had a face to face encounter with the Lord. (Genesis 16:7-13, Genesis 18, Genesis 32:24-32, Joshua 5:13-15, Judges 6:11-24, Judges 13:8-24, Daniel 3). In each situation, the Person is given different titles, but in all cases the person is plainly referred to as the Lord Himself, but appearing in a human form.

From eternity past, God’s plan of the ages included Jesus (1 Peter 1:20, Ephesians 1:4).

–David Guzik

3Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
4And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.

In prophesying these words (verses 2-4) about the coming of the Messiah, Micah reveals to his contemporaries and to us at least three things about God which should turn us away from idols and cause us to want to trust God above all else. The three things are: first, God always acts to magnify his glory, especially the glory of his freedom and mercy. Second, God keeps his promises. Third, God protects his people. If those three things are true, then who would not want the Lord above any idol? Who would not want to be protected by omnipotence and made an heir of promises which involve infinite glory?

–John Piper

5And he shall be their peace.

_________________________

Music:

One of my favorite Christmas carols. Pray for the peace of Jesus for Bethlehem!  HERE  Sarah McLachlan sings “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

_________________________

When the Assyrian comes into our land
and treads in our palaces,
then we will raise against him seven shepherds
and eight princes of men;

In contrast to the corrupt leaders that the prophet has lambasted, the Lord, when he comes, will raise up good leaders to help him defeat evil. Assyria/Nimrod in this case is a symbol of all the evil nations in the world.

6they shall shepherd the land of Assyria with the sword,
and the land of Nimrod at its entrances;
and he shall deliver us from the Assyrian
when he comes into our land
and treads within our border.

A Remnant Shall Be Delivered

7Then the remnant of Jacob shall be
in the midst of many peoples
like dew from the LORD,
like showers on the grass,
which delay not for a man
nor wait for the children of man.
8And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the nations,
in the midst of many peoples,
like a lion among the beasts of the forest,
like a young lion among the flocks of sheep,
which, when it goes through, treads down
and tears in pieces, and there is none to deliver.
9Your hand shall be lifted up over your adversaries,
and all your enemies shall be cut off.

The Lord declares that he will cut off anything that had previously been used in their idolatry:

10And in that day, declares the LORD,
I will cut off your horses from among you
and will destroy your chariots;
11 and I will cut off the cities of your land
and throw down all your strongholds;
12and I will cut off sorceries from your hand,
and you shall have no more tellers of fortunes;
13and I will cut off your carved images
and your pillars from among you,
and you shall bow down no more
to the work of your hands;
14and I will root out your Asherah images from among you
and destroy your cities.
15And in anger and wrath I will execute vengeance
on the nations that did not obey.

_________________________

English Standard Version (ESV)   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Bethlehem wall.   http://images.travelpod.com/users/out-of-nanoose/2.1262679599.section-of-the-concrete-wall-around-bethlehem.jpg
Bethlehem star.  http://forestparktree.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/bethlehem2.jpg
Baby Jesus in a manger.   https://musingsofernie.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/baby-jesus-in-manger.jpg
majesty, greatness, strength.   https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/e0/5b/80/e05b80260e7d1645d675f3fc9325cac4.jpg
lion.    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/88/a7/40/88a740547aaef53e3a1bc88e28e55163.jpg

2084.) Micah 4

April 27, 2017

The bronze sculpture “Let Us Beat Our Swords into Ploughshares,” was created by Soviet artist Evgeny Vuchetich, and presented to the United Nations on 4 December 1959 by the Government of the USSR. The sculpture, depicting the figure of a man holding a hammer aloft in one hand and a sword in the other, which he is making into a ploughshare, is meant to symbolize man’s desire to put an end to war, and to convert the means of destruction into creative tools for the benefit of mankind. It is located in the North Garden of the United Nations Headquarters.

Micah 4 (ESV)

In chapters 4 and 5, Micah proclaims that after judgment God will mercifully forgive and restore his people, bringing them back from exile in Babylon and reviving their city of Jerusalem.

The Mountain of the LORD

1It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and it shall be lifted up above the hills;
and peoples shall flow to it.

2And many nations shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”

Psalm 25:4 (NIV)

 Show me your ways, LORD,
   teach me your paths.

For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
3He shall judge between many peoples,
and shall decide for strong nations far away;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore;
4 but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree,
and no one shall make them afraid,
for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.

In 1941 Franklin Roosevelt gave a famous speech about four freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.  Micah 4:1-5 also describes four freedoms:

  • Freedom from ignorance (He will teach us His ways)
  • Freedom from war (Neither shall they learn war anymore)
  • Freedom from want (everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree)
  • Freedom from fear (no one shall make them afraid)

–David Guzik

5For all the peoples walk
each in the name of its god,
but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God
forever and ever.

Everything will be turned upside-down when this Messianic future “comes to pass.” The house of the LORD will be lifted up, the nations will flow uphill and war-mongering will turn to peace-making.

We have witnessed the lifting up of the house of the LORD. Christ – the true Temple – was destroyed and raised again on the third day (John 2:19-22). He is the true Meeting Place with the living God. And in risen power His word goes out to the nations and the world flocks to find peace in Him.

Yet, for the full benefits of Christ’s peace-making we will have to await His second coming. He told us in Mark 13 that until His return there would be “wars and rumours of wars” (v7). But in the meantime we see the principle of His redemption working its way out.

There are any  number of modern examples of swords into ploughshares: technology designed for destruction, redeemed for productive purposes. (Click  HERE  for some interesting cases of “swords” being turned into “plowshares.”) But the power, the pattern and the prototype for all such redemption is the cross of Jesus. There the greatest evil imaginable – deicide! – is turned to the greatest good – the salvation of the world. The sword of judgement fell upon Jesus and yet, as He went into the ground, it was only to become more fruitful! (John 12:24)

Christians know this redemptive power in themselves. And we await its application to the whole creation. With eyes fixed on the cross we have hope that the deepest darkness will be turned to light and peace:

Crown him the Lord of peace; his kingdom is at hand.
From pole to pole let warfare cease and Christ rule every land!
All hail, Redeemer, hail, for you have died for me.
Your praise shall never, never fail throughout eternity.

–Glen Scrivener

The LORD Shall Rescue Zion

6 In that day, declares the LORD,
I will assemble the lame
and gather those who have been driven away
and those whom I have afflicted;
7and the lame I will make the remnant,
and those who were cast off, a strong nation;
and the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion
from this time forth and forevermore.

8And you, O tower of the flock,
hill of the daughter of Zion,
to you shall it come,
the former dominion shall come,
kingship for the daughter of Jerusalem.

Now the prophet sketches out the future for the people of Judah. Some of it is bad news:  he tells them they will have no more kings, and that they would be sent as captives to Babylon. But he also encourages them with the assurance that God would help his people return to their land. All these things happened just as Micah prophesied, as recorded in 2 Chronicles 36 and Ezra 1 and 2. 

And is that not our story, too? Sin sends us into a kind of exile, and Jesus comes to restore us to wholeness and peace.

9Now why do you cry aloud?
Is there no king in you?
Has your counselor perished,
that pain seized you like a woman in labor?
10 Writhe and groan, O daughter of Zion,
like a woman in labor,
for now you shall go out from the city
and dwell in the open country;
you shall go to Babylon.
There you shall be rescued;
there the LORD will redeem you
from the hand of your enemies.

11Now many nations
are assembled against you,
saying, “Let her be defiled,
and let our eyes gaze upon Zion.”
12But they do not know
the thoughts of the LORD;
they do not understand his plan,
that he has gathered them as sheaves to the threshing floor.
13Arise and thresh,
O daughter of Zion,
for I will make your horn iron,
and I will make your hoofs bronze;
you shall beat in pieces many peoples;
and shall devote their gain to the LORD,
their wealth to the Lord of the whole earth.

“Behold, O Christ, the affliction of my heart; behold my turning back; behold my tears, O Saviour, and despise me not. But embrace me once again in Thy compassion and count me with the multitude of the saved, that with thanksgiving I may sing the praises of Thy mercy.”

–Matins Canon

_________________________

Music:

HERE  — Let us go to the mountain of the Lord, rejoicing and singing “Crown Him with Many Crowns.”

_________________________

English Standard Version (ESV)   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
UN sculpture.  http://downloads.unmultimedia.org/photo/medium/119/119163.jpg
Micah 4:1.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/micah4_11.jpg
Norman Rockwell,”The Four Freedoms.”    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/mypictures1.jpg
swords into plowshares.   http://www.opednews.com/populum/uploaded/swords-into-plowshares1–400-x-3-11235-20090402-4.jpg
Prodigal Son sketch.  http://monachos.net/content/images/icons/prodigalson_sketch.png
redeemed.   http://profile.ak.fbcdn.net/hprofile-ak-snc4/161965_137502462929816_615333_n.jpg

2083.) Micah 3

April 26, 2017

Micah 3 (ESV)

Rulers and Prophets Denounced

Micah declares their on-going sins:  The rulers abhor justice, pervert equity, shed blood, and take bribes.

1And I said: HEAR, you heads of Jacob
and rulers of the house of Israel!
Is it not for you to know justice?—

They knew what the Lord meant when he said “justice” —

Isaiah 1:16-17 (NIV)

Take your evil deeds out of my sight; 
   stop doing wrong.
Learn to do right; seek justice.
   Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
   plead the case of the widow.

2you who hate the good and love the evil,
who tear the skin from off my people
and their flesh from off their bones,
3 who eat the flesh of my people,
and flay their skin from off them,
and break their bones in pieces
and chop them up like meat in a pot,
like flesh in a cauldron.

Instead of rendering justice, the prophet says, the leaders slaughter their people like animals to be eaten. It is a vivid and disgusting picture.

4 Then they will cry to the LORD,
but he will not answer them;
he will hide his face from them at that time,
because they have made their deeds evil.

This is just the opposite of what the Lord wants for them, as God taught Aaron to pray:

Numbers 6:25 (NIV)

The LORD make his face shine on you
   and be gracious to you.

5Thus says the LORD concerning the prophets
who lead my people astray,
who cry “Peace”
when they have something to eat,
but declare war against him
who puts nothing into their mouths.
6Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision,
and darkness to you, without divination.
The sun shall go down on the prophets,
and the day shall be black over them;
7 the seers shall be disgraced,
and the diviners put to shame;
they shall all cover their lips,
for there is no answer from God.

.
8But as for me, I am filled with power,
with the Spirit of the LORD,
and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression
and to Israel his sin.

Micah already knows this!

1 John 4:4 (NLT)

But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.

9 Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob
and rulers of the house of Israel,
who detest justice

It has come to this.  The leaders detest / abhor / reject / hate justice (from various translations).

and make crooked all that is straight,
10 who build Zion with blood
and Jerusalem with iniquity.
11 Its heads give judgment for a bribe;
its priests teach for a price;
its prophets practice divination for money;
yet they lean on the LORD and say,
“Is not the LORD in the midst of us?
No disaster shall come upon us.”
12Therefore because of you
Zion shall be plowed as a field;
Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
and the mountain of the house a wooded height.

“The Prophet Micah” by James Tissot, c. 1888

The leaders of Jerusalem had a false confidence in religious ritual and form. All the while, judgment was appointed for Jerusalem unless they repented.

The great thing about the Prophet Micah was that he was listened to. Hosea was ignored, and so was Amos. They threw Jeremiah in jail for his prophetic message of coming judgment. In contrast, King Hezekiah and the leadership of Judah listened to the Prophet Micah.

Jeremiah 26:17-19 describes how even a hundred years later the impact of Micah was remembered: Then certain of the elders of the land rose up and spoke to all the assembly of the people, saying: “Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spoke to all the people of Judah, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, And the mountain of the temple Like the bare hills of the forest.”‘ Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah ever put him to death? Did he not fear the Lord and seek the Lord’s favor? And the Lord relented concerning the doom which He had pronounced against them. But we are doing great evil against ourselves.”

–David Guzik

_________________________

Music:

HERE  Tim Hughes sings “God of Justice (We Must Go)” — because we are the instruments of God’s justice in this world.

_________________________

English Standard Version (ESV)   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Where is justice?   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/where-is-justice.jpg
skinning an animal.  http://www.thenazareneway.com/vegetarian/skinning.jpg
No Justice.   http://themoderatevoice.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/no-justice3.png
Tissot.    http://static.artbible.info/large/micha_tissot.jpg

2082.) Micah 2

April 25, 2017

Woe to those who are greedy.

Micah 2 (ESV)

Woe to the Oppressors

Now Micah puts his finger on the sins of covetousness and stealing and oppression and pride.

1 Woe to those who devise wickedness
and work evil on their beds!

To pronounce “woe” upon someone was to announce their funeral. Those upon whom the woe is pronounced are described here as lying awake on their beds at night, thinking up ever more creative and corrupt schemes for increasing their own property at the expense of others less powerful. Perhaps they were military and government officials who populated the small defense cities like Moresheth (where the prophet lives). They may also have been the well-to-do who lived in Jerusalem but who wanted some property for weekends and vacations in the country, with fresh air, a few horses, and a marvelous view.

Whoever they were, these individuals were dangerous to the health of Judean society because their schemes for acquiring more and more real estate were dishonest. They can do it: “it is in the power of their hand.” They have the money and the connections to get what they want, no matter who is hurt along the way.

–James Limburg, Interpretation:  Micah.

When the morning dawns, they perform it,
because it is in the power of their hand.
2They covet fields and seize them,
and houses, and take them away;
they oppress a man and his house,
a man and his inheritance.

Exodus 20:17 (NIV)

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

3Therefore thus says the LORD:
behold, against this family I am devising disaster,
from which you cannot remove your necks,
and you shall not walk haughtily,
for it will be a time of disaster.

Have these people been lying awake nights, devising ever more ingeniously crooked schemes? The Lord, who neither slumbers nor sleeps (Ps. 121), has been doing some “devising” too, says the prophet — devising evil against them! My mother used to say, “What you put into the lives of others, comes back into your own.”

4In that day they shall take up a taunt song against you
and moan bitterly,
and say, “We are utterly ruined;
he changes the portion of my people;
how he removes it from me!
To an apostate he allots our fields.”
5Therefore you will have none to cast the line by lot
in the assembly of the LORD.

6 “Do not preach”—thus they preach—
“one should not preach of such things;
disgrace will not overtake us.”
7Should this be said, O house of Jacob?
Has the LORD grown impatient?
Are these his deeds?
Do not my words do good
to him who walks uprightly?

In my work as a presenter for Walk Thru the Bible seminars, I have encountered a few incidents that have left me speechless, and those who know me know that it is not easy to shut me up! One congregational member in Florida told me that they had just one request for their new pastor:  that he would be willing to teach Bible Study classes to them. Their last pastor had refused to do Bible studies, preferring novels and movies! And one pastor from Texas told me he had to leave his former parish because the council asked him to please stop preaching about Jesus so much. Jesus on the cross had to do with sin and forgiveness, and that wasn’t interesting to them.

The words of Micah speak to us today.  The Lord says, “Do not my words do good?”  Let us be faithful to God’s Word!

8But lately my people have risen up as an enemy;
you strip the rich robe from those who pass by trustingly
with no thought of war.
9The women of my people you drive out
from their delightful houses;
from their young children you take away
my splendor forever.
10 Arise and go,
for this is no place to rest,
because of uncleanness that destroys
with a grievous destruction.
11If a man should go about and utter wind and lies,
saying, “I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,”
he would be the preacher for this people!

A popular preacher may be just telling people what they want to hear! Favor, and blessing, and wealth, and a good life! It reminds me of a Spurgeon sermon where he predicted that in future  pulpits, instead of shepherds feeding the flocks, there would be “clowns entertaining the goats.”

Where is the preaching on obedience, holiness, service, and sacrifice? Where are the people, the prophet asks, who hunger and thirst after righteousness? They are there, and the Lord promises restoration to a remnant of Israel:

12I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob;
I will gather the remnant of Israel;
I will set them together
like sheep in a fold,
like a flock in its pasture,
a noisy multitude of men.
13 He who opens the breach goes up before them;
they break through and pass the gate,
going out by it.
Their king passes on before them,
the LORD at their head.

Such a beautiful picture of our Savior, clearing the path, opening the gate, leading us on.

_________________________

Music:

I was delighted to find this Paul Manz organ arrangement of the hymn “Jesus, Lead Thou On,” since it is one I used to play when I was a church organist.  HERE.   Lyrics follow.

1. Jesus, lead Thou on
Till our rest is won;
And although the way be cheerless,
We will follow calm and fearless.
Guide us by Thy hand
To our fatherland.

2. If the way be drear,
If the foe be near,
Let not faithless fears o’ertake us;
Let not faith and hope forsake us;
For through many a woe
To our home we go.

3. When we seek relief
From a long-felt grief;
When temptations come alluring,
Make us patient and enduring;
Show us that bright shore
Where we weep no more.

4. Jesus, lead Thou on
Till our rest is won.
Heavenly Leader, still direct us,
Still support, control, protect us,
Till we safely stand
In our fatherland.

__________________________

English Standard Version (ESV)   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Woe figures.   http://mtpmcg.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/woe-sm.jpg
grasping for more.   http://www.gbcdecatur.org/files/GraspingForMore.jpg
Holy Bible.   https://img.clipartfest.com/a48cbd9aa468891d0cd93e87cfd8437b_free-bible-clip-art-images-free-holy-bible-clipart_488-560.gif
from Psalm 23.   https://faithfulgal.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/psalms23-3.jpg

2081.) Micah 1

April 24, 2017

“Micah Exhorts the Israelites to Repent”

Micah 1 (ESV)

Micah was a prophet during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. He was a contemporary of the prophets Isaiah, Amos, and Hosea. Micah speaks mostly to the Southern Kingdom of Judah, but he also predicts the fall of Samaria, which took place in 722 BCE.

In chapters 1 through 3, Micah rails against landowners and religious and political leaders who have abused their power and conspired to do evil, coveted and defrauded others of their property, stolen and plundered, hated good and loved evil, oppressed the poor, despised justice and distorted truth, accepted bribes, used their religious positions for profit, engaged in dishonest business practices, acted with violence and deceit, and murdered their own people . . . Try to remember, as you are reading, that this is an ancient document. It might sound surprisingly current!

 1The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.

Micah is a hard prophet to understand because the book alternates back and forth between threats of doom and promises of hope. It is hard to figure out what situations he is referring to and how the hope and doom relate to each other. Probably the reason the book is arranged like this is to make the point that where God and his people are concerned, there is always hope, even in the darkest catastrophe. So Micah mingles gloom and glory through his book.

–John Piper

The Coming Destruction

2 HEAR, you peoples, all of you;
pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it,
and let the Lord GOD be a witness against you,
the Lord from his holy temple.

The prophet is calling the people of Israel to “hear” the Lord’s complaint against Samaria, the capital city of the Northern Kingdom, and Jerusalem, the capital of the Southern KingdomThe Lord is coming, not to rescue his people from distress, but to confront his people with their sins:

3For behold, the LORD is coming out of his place,
and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth.
4And the mountains will melt under him,
and the valleys will split open,
like wax before the fire,
like waters poured down a steep place.
5All this is for the transgression of Jacob
and for the sins of the house of Israel.
What is the transgression of Jacob?
Is it not Samaria?
And what is the high place of Judah?
Is it not Jerusalem?

Now the prophet promises that punishment for sin will come — first, because of idolatry:

6Therefore I will make Samaria a heap in the open country,
a place for planting vineyards,
and I will pour down her stones into the valley
and uncover her foundations.

This prophecy was fulfilled in 722 BCE when Samaria fell to the Assyrians and was completely destroyed.

7All her carved images shall be beaten to pieces,
all her wages shall be burned with fire,
and all her idols I will lay waste,
for from the fee of a prostitute she gathered them,
and to the fee of a prostitute they shall return.

The prophet tries to describe his grief as he contemplates the destruction which is soon coming:

8 For this I will lament and wail;
I will go stripped and naked;
I will make lamentation like the jackals,
and mourning like the ostriches.
9 For her wound is incurable,

“Our only incurable wounds are the ones we refuse to bring to God. With Him, all things are possible (Luke 18:27), but when we refuse to bring our sin to Him, then our wounds are incurable.”

–David Guzik

and it has come to Judah;
it has reached to the gate of my people,
to Jerusalem.

Damascus Gate, facing north toward ancient Samaria, is the most ornamented gate of the Jerusalem city walls. It was built during the time of Suleiman the Magnificent between 1538-1541.

The prophet describes the march of the conqueror through ten cities, arriving finally at Jerusalem:

10 Tell it not in Gath;
weep not at all;
in Beth-le-aphrah
roll yourselves in the dust.
11Pass on your way,
inhabitants of Shaphir,
in nakedness and shame;
the inhabitants of Zaanan
do not come out;
the lamentation of Beth-ezel
shall take away from you its standing place.
12For the inhabitants of Maroth
wait anxiously for good,
because disaster has come down from the LORD
to the gate of Jerusalem.
13Harness the steeds to the chariots,
inhabitants of Lachish;
it was the beginning of sin
to the daughter of Zion,
for in you were found
the transgressions of Israel.
14Therefore you shall give parting gifts
to Moresheth-gath;
the houses of Achzib shall be a deceitful thing
to the kings of Israel.
15I will again bring a conqueror to you,
inhabitants of Mareshah;
the glory of Israel
shall come to Adullam.

The prophet invites the Israelites to join him in mourning, for their children will be sent into exile:

16 Make yourselves bald and cut off your hair,
for the children of your delight;
make yourselves as bald as the eagle,
for they shall go from you into exile.

_________________________

Music:

Verse 3 contains a wonderful promise:  The Lord is coming! This was terrifying news for the people of Micah’s day. Yet it is truly good news for God’s people of every time and place. It points to two joyous occasions — first, to the coming of the baby Jesus, “God in flesh made manifest,” in Bethlehem.  Isaac Watts describes the welcoming reaction of nature to that event:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her king . . .
And heaven and nature sing.

Second, it points to another coming of the Lord, an event the Church has been longing for since Christ ascended into Heaven. Jesus will return, before all nations, and will judge the living and the dead. For believers who have been called out of a variety of darknesses into God’s marvelous light, this final coming is good news!

HERE  Casting Crowns sings “Glorious Day.”

_________________________

English Standard Version (ESV)   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Dore.  http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/bible-images/hires/Micah-Chapter-1-Micah-Exhorts-the-Israelites-to-Repent.jpg
Listen to the Lord.   http://b.vimeocdn.com/ts/110/351/110351373_640.jpg
ruins of Samaria (this picture of remains from the time of Herod).   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/ruins-of-samaria.jpg
Damascus Gate.   https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/2c/da/46/2cda46ebf263bc6b7cbc9d9eac111b11.jpg

2080.) Isaiah 6

April 21, 2017
"Isaiah 6" by Jennifer Thomas

“Isaiah 6” by Jennifer Thomas

Isaiah 6   (ESV)

Isaiah’s Vision of the Lord

In the year that King Uzziah died

King Uzziah of Judah had a long and distinguished reign, described in 2 Chronicles 26 and in 2 Kings 15:1-7 (Uzziah is called Azariah in 2 Kings 15).

Uzziah began his reign when he was only 16 years old, and he reigned 52 years. Overall, he was a good king, and 2 Kings 15:3 says, he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. 2 Chronicles 28:5 says, He sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper.

Uzziah also led Israel in military victories over the Philistines and other neighboring nations, and he was a strong king. Uzziah was a energetic builder, planner, and general. 2 Chronicles 26:8 says, His fame spread as far as the entrance of Egypt, for he strengthened himself exceedingly.

But Uzziah’s life ended tragically. 2 Chronicles 26:16 says, But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the Lord his God by entering the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. In response, God struck Uzziah with leprosy, and he was an isolated leper until his death.

So, to say in the year King Uzziah died is to say a lot. It is to say, “In the year a great and wise king died.” But it is also to say, “In the year a great and wise king who had a tragic end died.” Isaiah had great reason to be discouraged and disillusioned at the death of King Uzziah, because a great king had passed away, and because his life ended tragically. Where was the Lord in all this? . . .

I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne,

. . . The Lord was still enthroned in heaven, and was still in charge of all creation.  Isaiah may have been depressed or discouraged because a great leader of Judah was no longer on the throne. God in heaven now shows Isaiah, “Don’t worry about it, Isaiah. Uzziah may not be on his throne, but I am on My throne.”

–David Guzik

high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.

Four wings for devotion, two wings for service. It is an interesting proportion for us to consider in our own lives, I think.

And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

Isaiah’s Commission from the Lord

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

Isaiah emphatically answered God’s call. He did not hesitate. Isaiah wanted to be the answer to God’s question.

What created this kind of heart in Isaiah? First, he had a heart that had been in the presence of God. He had a heart that knew its own sinfulness. He had a heart that knew the need among the people, the need for God’s word. He had a heart that had been touched by God’s cleansing fire. And he had a heart that heard God’s heart to reach the nations.

–David Guzik

And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
10 Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”

I6 hard heart

Their hearts were hardened toward God. As one hears the Word of God today, it always accomplishes one of two things:  either a drawing to God and learning to love and serve Him better, or a further hardening and rejection. We are either better for having heard God’s Word, or worse. The process of hardening of the heart is not a mystery nor is it a miracle enacted by God, but a natural process begun and carried on and completed by the sinner himself. It is produced by repeated neglect of truths and shunning God’s calling through His Holy Spirit. Hard hearts are a serious matter!

–N. E. Constance

11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is a desolate waste,
12 and the Lord removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.

The chapter closes with a promise:  a remnant will survive the judgment.

13 And though a tenth remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains
when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump.

When Isaiah saw the Lord, who did he see? He saw God in the Second Person of the Trinity, he saw Jesus before He added humanity to His deity. We know this because the Apostle John quotes Isaiah 6:10, and under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, adds: These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him (John 12:41).

–David Guzik

The Prophet

by Alexander Pushkin / translated by Ted Hughes

Crazed by my soul’s thirst
Through a dark land I staggered.
And a six-winged seraph
Halted me at a crossroads.
With fingers of dream
He touched my eye-pupils.
My eyes, prophetic, recoiled
Like a startled eaglet’s.
He touched my ears
And a thunderous clangour filled them,
The shudderings of heaven,
The huge wingbeat of angels
The submarine migration of sea-reptiles
And the burgeoning of the earth’s vine.
He forced my mouth wide,
Plucked out my own cunning
Garrulous evil tongue,
And with bloody fingers
Between my frozen lips
Inserted the fork of a wise serpent.
He split my chest with a blade,
Wrenched my heart from its hiding,
And into the open wound
Pressed a flaming coal.
I lay on stones like a corpse.
There God’s voice came to me:
Stand, Prophet, you are my will.
Be my witness. Go
Through all seas and lands. With the Word
Burn the hearts of people.

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Music:

Click  HERE  to hear  “Lift Up Your Eyes,” a song based on Isaiah chapter 6, by Planet Shakers.  Planet Shakers is a youth movement that began as an annual conference and grew into a ministry and church in Melbourne, Australia.

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Images courtesy of:
by Thomas.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/i6-jennifer-thomas.jpg
seraphim.   http://stjohnmemphis.org/wp-content/uploads/Seraphim1.jpg
Here I am.   http://www.spiritoflifeav.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/SEND-ME.jpg
hard heart.   http://www.deebrestin.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/heart-of-stone2.jpg
the prophet, the angel, the coals.   https://220lily.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/isaiah-angel-coal.jpg.

2079.) Isaiah 5

April 20, 2017
"The Vineyard" by Donn Ziebel

“The Vineyard” by Donn Ziebell

Isaiah 5   (ESV)

The Vineyard of the Lord Destroyed

Let me sing for my beloved
my love song concerning his vineyard:

Isaiah sings a song for his Lord.

My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;
and he looked for it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes.

And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem
and men of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard.
What more was there to do for my vineyard,
that I have not done in it?
When I looked for it to yield grapes,

(like obedience, thanksgiving, love, worship, service)

why did it yield wild grapes?

(like disobedience, rebellion, idolatry)

And now I will tell you
what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge,
and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall,
and it shall be trampled down.
I will make it a waste;
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and briers and thorns shall grow up;
I will also command the clouds
that they rain no rain upon it.

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah
are his pleasant planting;
and he looked for justice,
but behold, bloodshed;
for righteousness,
but behold, an outcry!

I5 grapes

Matthew 21:33-44  (NIV)

“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

“The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.

“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”

Woe to the Wicked

First woe:  Covetous landowners who try to corner the real estate market till there is an acute shortage of houses and land, yet the owners dwell in solitary splendor.

Woe to those who join house to house,
who add field to field,
until there is no more room,
and you are made to dwell alone
in the midst of the land.
The Lord of hosts has sworn in my hearing:
“Surely many houses shall be desolate,
large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant.
10 For ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one bath,
and a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah.”

 

Second woe:  Confirmed alcoholics who imbibe from morning till night. They feast and carouse in total disregard of God and His works. It is for this kind of unthinking behavior that the exile is drawing near. God will be vindicated by His righteous judgment when foreign bedouin shepherds feed their flocks in the ruins of Israel.

11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning,
that they may run after strong drink,
who tarry late into the evening
as wine inflames them!
12 They have lyre and harp,
tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts,
but they do not regard the deeds of the Lord,
or see the work of his hands.

13 Therefore my people go into exile
for lack of knowledge;
their honored men go hungry,
and their multitude is parched with thirst.
14 Therefore Sheol has enlarged its appetite
and opened its mouth beyond measure,
and the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude will go down,
her revelers and he who exults in her.
15 Man is humbled, and each one is brought low,
and the eyes of the haughty are brought low.
16 But the Lord of hosts is exalted in justice,
and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.
17 Then shall the lambs graze as in their pasture,
and nomads shall eat among the ruins of the rich.

Third woe:  Brazen liars and God-defiers who are hitched to sin and drag guilt and punishment after them.  They challenge God to hasten with the punishment He has threatened on them.

18 Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood,
who draw sin as with cart ropes,
19 who say: “Let him be quick,
let him speed his work
that we may see it;
let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near,
and let it come, that we may know it!

Fourth woe:  Those who obliterate moral distinctions, denying the difference between good and evil.

20 Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!

Fifth woe:  Conceited men who cannot be told anything.

21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
and shrewd in their own sight!

Sixth woe:  Judges who are heroes at drinking and who pervert justice through accepting bribes.

22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine,
and valiant men in mixing strong drink,
23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
and deprive the innocent of his right!

24 Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble,
and as dry grass sinks down in the flame,
so their root will be as rottenness,
and their blossom go up like dust;
for they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts,
and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
25 Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people,
and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them,
and the mountains quaked;
and their corpses were as refuse
in the midst of the streets.
For all this his anger has not turned away,
and his hand is stretched out still.

These wicked men who have no respect for the Word of God will be devoured like grass in a prairie fire.

26 He will raise a signal for nations far away,
and whistle for them from the ends of the earth;
and behold, quickly, speedily they come!
27 None is weary, none stumbles,
none slumbers or sleeps,
not a waistband is loose,
not a sandal strap broken;
28 their arrows are sharp,
all their bows bent,
their horses’ hoofs seem like flint,
and their wheels like the whirlwind.
29 Their roaring is like a lion,
like young lions they roar;
they growl and seize their prey;
they carry it off, and none can rescue.
30 They will growl over it on that day,
like the growling of the sea.
And if one looks to the land,
behold, darkness and distress;
and the light is darkened by its clouds.

God whistles and the Babylonian army comes! See their troops approaching — in top physical condition, perfectly uniformed, well armed. The horses and chariots approach fast and furiously. It is a dark day for Judah.

–all comments in blue by William MacDonald

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Music:

As I read of the failings of the people of Judah, I hear this sad song in my mind:  “Days of Wine and Roses” sung by Andy Williams.  Click  HERE  to listen.

Days of Wine and Roses (1962) is a film directed by Blake Edwards, with music by Henry Mancini, and features Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick.  The film depicts the downward spiral of two average Americans who succumb to alcoholism and attempt to deal with their problem.

An Academy Award went to the film’s theme music, composed by Mancini with lyrics by Johnny Mercer.  The film received four other Oscar nominations, including ones for Best Actor and Best Actress.

Today, Days of Wine and Roses is required viewing in many alcoholic and drug rehabilitation clinics across America.

–Wikipedia

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English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Ziebell.   http://www.yurart.com/images/isaiah5sun400.jpg
grapes.    http://www.iment.com/maida/familytree/henry/bios/images/grapes-purple.jpg
money for more houses.   http://news.myestatepoint.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/2015_11image_12_32_203531198real-ll.jpg
chained to the drink.   https://www.discoveryplace.info/sites/default/files/alcoholic.jpg
sin can tie up your life.   http://www.christianitycove.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/sin-bible-object-lesson.jpg
good or evil.   http://msbisonline.edublogs.org/files/2012/10/good-vs-evil-16rul82.jpg?w=240
Proverbs 26:12.  https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/6f/f7/f2/6ff7f2127b84b1d81d4486151a929f4e.jpg
corrupt judges.    http://www.pacourtwatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Corrupt-Judges.jpg