738.) Micah 5

February 29, 2012

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 (English Standard Version)

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 (New Living Translation)

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.

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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

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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.
5And he shall be their peace.

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Music:

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

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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.

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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.   http://www.themotherhuddle.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/baby-Jesus-in-a-manger1.jpg

737.) Micah 4

February 28, 2012

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 (English Standard Version)

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 (New International Version)

 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 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

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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

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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.

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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

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Music:

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

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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.   http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_qjq11i3dPl0/Rkctxm6EJ-I/AAAAAAAAARA/aAK1T65WUbA/s320/micah4_1.jpg
Norman Rockwell,”The Four Freedoms.”    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_p4RelMnB09s/Sw2IsqbNoTI/AAAAAAAAZUM/-Z-zJ23QS2A/s1600/My+Pictures1.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

736.) Micah 3

February 27, 2012

Micah 3 (English Standard Version)

Rulers and Prophets Denounced

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 (New International Version)

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.

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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.

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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 (New International Version)

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 (New Living Translation)

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).

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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

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Music:

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

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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?  http://afrocosmopolitan.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/where-is-justice.jpg
skinning an animal.  http://www.thenazareneway.com/vegetarian/skinning.jpg
No Justice.  http://graceasheboro.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/no-justice.png
Tissot.    http://static.artbible.info/large/micha_tissot.jpg

735.) Micah 2

February 24, 2012

Woe to those who are greedy.

Micah 2 (English Standard Version)

Woe to the Oppressors

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 (New International Version)

“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.”

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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!

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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 — instead of 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.

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Music:

I was delighted to find this Paul Manz organ arrangement of the hymn “Jesus, Lead Thou On.”  I used to play it when I was a church organist.  It is performed here by Michael Snyder on the organ at the First United Methodist Church in Lancaster, Ohio.  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.

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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.   http://www.gospelgifs.com/art_pages_09/images/redbibl.gif

734.) Micah 1

February 23, 2012

"Micah Exhorts the Israelites to Repent"

Micah 1 (English Standard Version)

Time travel for us!  For the next seven days, we are back in the Old Testament with Micah, 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.

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 Kingdom The 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 will come:

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.

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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.

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.

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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!

Casting Crowns sings “Glorious Day.”

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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).   http://irapl.altervista.org/nit/viewpics.php?title=Northward+from+Jerusalem.+Ruins+of+Samaria

733.) Psalm 90

February 22, 2012

Psalm 90 (King James Version)

“Psalm 90 is one of the most magisterial of the psalms.”
–Walter Brueggemann

1Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.

2Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

3Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.

4For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.

2 Peter 3:8-9 (English Standard Version)

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

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5Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up.

6In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.

Psalm 90 has long been used at funerals and burials.

There was a young lady from Guam,
Who said, “Now the sea is so calm,
I will swim, for a lark.”
But she met with a shark —
Let us now sing the ninetieth psalm.

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7For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.

8Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.

9For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.

“A tale that is told.” That rings a bell. I wonder if Shakespeare didn’t have Psalm 90 in front of him as he wrote Macbeth’s soliloquy (Act V, scene v):


“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

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10The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

11Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.

12So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

from Whispers of His Power,
by Amy Carmichael

Some time ago I was given two big pieces of soap, and I use both every day.  For a while I saw very little difference in either, but gradually I saw that both were just a little less.  Of course one can’t at the same time both give and keep, and soap is always giving.  Every time you use it, it gives you something of itself, so naturally it becomes less and less.

Did you ever think of life as a piece of soap?  Every day, hour, minute, it is giving you something of itself.  Soon it will have given all, and then there won’t be any more of it here.  When we are young we think things will go on just as they are forever.  But they don’t.

Next time you use your soap, will you think of the little prayer in Psalm 90:12?

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13Return, O LORD, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants.

14O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

15Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.

It was my father who taught me to say, as soon as I awakened in the morning, “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.”  And it was my mother who often said, “Today is the best day of my life.”  When I questioned her once for saying it so often, she explained, “But today is the only day I have.  Yesterday is gone, and who knows about tomorrow?”  My parents were both children of the Depression.  They had to be terribly frugal most of their lives.  Death and disappointment were frequent visitors in their experiences.  But they lived out the verses above, in that they were glad even in the days that included affliction.

If you are basing your joy on your circumstances, on your present situation, on sunny breezes and the comfortable situation you inhabit, then following this command day in and day out will not be easy.  But if you are satisfied with God’s mercy, if you do not forget the joy of Christ risen! — then you will find, even in the dark days, the glory of the Lord present in your heart.

May God help us to put our confidence and our joy in Christ, who alone is worthy of all our praise!

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16Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children.

17And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.

So our situation is not finally defined by dust and grass, but by the One who makes us at home safely.

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Music:

The hymn “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”  was written by Isaac Watts in 1719, a paraphrase of Psalm 90.  It is sung here by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge.  The choral piece is sandwiched between two partial keyboard pieces using the tune, St. Anne.  If you feel cheated at the end and want to hear all of J. S. Bach’s beautiful Fugue in E-Flat (St. Anne) BWV 552, go to youtube and you can listen to a wide variety of renditions; I recommend it!

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King James Version (KJV)   Public Domain

Images courtesy of:
Psalm 90:1-2.   http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_34yldQ8YwLI/S9-1nCJ_R0I/AAAAAAAABRY/O8z6w8NINGU/s640/Psalm+90+1+2.jpg
clock.  http://thejourneyfortruth.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/clock.gif
burial.  http://www.texasfuneralminister.com/files/9513/1155/1052/Funeral-Pictures.jpg
Macbeth.   http://www.bbc.co.uk/drama/shakespeare/60secondshakespeare/images/star/macbeth.jpg
washing with soap.  http://www.heartlandscience.org/future/images/bar%20of%20soap.jpg
Fruit of the Spirit.   http://i165.photobucket.com/albums/u62/ParkcrestHSM/blogg/FruitoftheSpirit02JoyTitle.jpg

732.) Colossians 4

February 21, 2012

Colossians 4 (New International Version)

 1 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

Further Instructions

2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

James 5:16 (Amplified Bible)

The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].

Prayer does not equip you for greater works.
Prayer is the greater work.

— Oswald Chambers

David Yonggi Cho, pastor of the largest church in the world, the Yoida Full Gospel Church in Seoul, Korea, which has over a million members, says how important prayer is. “You could remove the powerful preaching from our church and it would still continue. You could remove the administration of pastoral care through the cell group system and the church would still continue. But if you removed the prayer life of our church, it would collapse.”

“Satan trembles when he sees
the weakest Christian on his knees.”

–William Cowper

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3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Final Greetings

7 Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. 9He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.

Onesimus was a slave owned by a believer in Colossae, but he ran away and came into contact with Paul in Rome.  There, Onesimus became a Christian and a dedicated helper to Paul.  His story is continued in Paul’s letter to Philemon.

10 My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) 11 Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me.

Aristarchus . . . Mark . . . Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers . . . who are of the circumcision: As Paul’s ministry continued, it became more focused towards Gentiles, because many Jewish people came to reject both Paul and his message.

Paul was in a Roman jail because of a Jewish riot over the mere mention of God’s offer of grace to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21-22).

They have proved to be a comfort to me: At that time, Paul had only three fellow workers with a Jewish heritage. But these three did a great work, they proved to be a comfort to Paul.

–David Guzik

12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.

Prayer has divided seas, rolled up flowing rivers, made rocks gush into fountains, quenched flames of fire, muzzled lions, disarmed vipers and poisons, marshaled the stars against the wicked, stopped the course of the moon, arrested the sun in its rapid race, burst open iron gates, released souls from eternity, conquered the strongest devils, commanded legions of angels down from heaven. Prayer has bridled and chained the raging passions of man and routed & destroyed vast armies of proud, daring, blustering atheists. Prayer has brought one man from the bottom of the sea and carried another in a chariot of fire to heaven. What has prayer not done?”

–John Blanchard

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13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor,

Here is where we learn that Luke, the author of the Gospel according to Luke and the book of Acts, was a physician.

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and Demas send greetings. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.

16 After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.

17 Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.”

18 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

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Music:

“What a friend we have in Jesus”  by country music great Alan Jackson, from his album Precious Memories.  This project originally started as a Christmas present for his mother, who had always wanted him to record Gospel music.  His small intimate project turned into an incredible release of favorite hymns, selling 1.8 million albums.

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New International Version (NIV)   Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
prayer.   http://3.bp.blogspot.com/__GK0k7tGlqo/TSD59tg2a7I/AAAAAAAABUg/cGP4T4zIbv0/s1600/prayer.jpg
candle light.   http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-7bUyhWF7bV4/TaFVGVt8oLI/AAAAAAAAAJ4/dCIIQ67VwVM/s1600/candle%2Blight.JPG
wrestling in prayer.  http://laboringinthelord.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Prayer-Warrior.jpg
doctor.  http://www.computerclipart.com/computer_clipart_images/medical_doctor_lecturing_patient_0521-1102-1611-4613_SMU.jpg