781.) Amos 6

April 30, 2012

Brought to you by the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.

Amos 6 (New International Version)

Woe to the Complacent

1 Woe to you who are complacent in Zion,
and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria,
you notable men of the foremost nation,
to whom the people of Israel come!

Luke 6:24 (Contemporary English Version)

But you rich people
are in for trouble.
You have already had

an easy life!

2 Go to Kalneh and look at it;
go from there to great Hamath,
and then go down to Gath in Philistia.
Are they better off than your two kingdoms?
Is their land larger than yours?
3 You put off the day of disaster
and bring near a reign of terror.
4 You lie on beds adorned with ivory
and lounge on your couches.
You dine on choice lambs
and fattened calves.

5 You strum away on your harps like David
and improvise on musical instruments.
6 You drink wine by the bowlful
and use the finest lotions,

but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.
7 Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile;
your feasting and lounging will end.

“Self-indulgence! Oh, this is the God of many! They live not for Christ – What do they for him? They live not for his Church – What care they for that? They live for self, and for self only. And mark there are such among the poor as well as among the rich, for all classes have this evil leaven.”

— Charles Haddon Spurgeon

The LORD Abhors the Pride of Israel

1 Peter 5:5 (English Standard Version)

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

8The Sovereign LORD has sworn by himself—the LORD God Almighty declares:
“I abhor the pride of Jacob
and detest his fortresses;
I will deliver up the city
and everything in it.”

9 If ten people are left in one house, they too will die. 10 And if the relative who comes to carry the bodies out of the house to burn them asks anyone who might be hiding there, “Is anyone else with you?” and he says, “No,” then he will go on to say, “Hush! We must not mention the name of the LORD.”

11 For the LORD has given the command,
and he will smash the great house into pieces
and the small house into bits.

12 Do horses run on the rocky crags?
Does one plow the sea with oxen?

Again Amos asks his questions that have an obvious answer:  “Of course not.”  The meaning is — Israel, what you have done is just as foolish and will have no good results.

But you have turned justice into poison
and the fruit of righteousness into bitterness—
13 you who rejoice in the conquest of Lo Debar
and say, “Did we not take Karnaim by our own strength?”

14 For the LORD God Almighty declares,
“I will stir up a nation against you, Israel,
that will oppress you all the way
from Lebo Hamath to the valley of the Arabah.”



That unsettling little conversation in verses 9 and 10, which ends with “We must not mention the name of the Lord.”  No, no, no, I cannot agree!!  We will say it, sing it, proclaim it — “We Trust in the Name of the Lord our God”  by Steve Green.


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

Images courtesy of:
Take it easy.   http://www.captain-morgan.info/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Take-it-easy.jpg
Lunch at Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry:  “Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Rib-Eye with ‘Collier d’Agneau,’ French Laundry Garden Brussels Sprouts, Young Turnips, Toasted Farro and ‘Sauce Navarin.'”   http://lettherebebite.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/lamb-blog.jpg
“the finest lotions.”  http://www.laprairie.com/seam/resource/media/laprairie/Daily_Essentials_2_444x400.jpg
More “me” stuff.  http://glossynews.com/society/201009180228/libertea-federalist-activists-launch-the-its-all-about-me-party/

780.) Amos 5

April 27, 2012

Amos 5 (New International Version)

A Lament and Call to Repentance

1Hear this word, Israel, this lament I take up concerning you:
2 “Fallen is Virgin Israel,
never to rise again,
deserted in her own land,
with no one to lift her up.”

God foretells the judgment that is coming to Israel.

3 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to Israel:

“Your city that marches out a thousand strong
will have only a hundred left;
your town that marches out a hundred strong
will have only ten left.”

Their military forces will be decimated.

4 This is what the LORD says to Israel:

“Seek me and live;
5 do not seek Bethel,
do not go to Gilgal,
do not journey to Beersheba.
For Gilgal will surely go into exile,
and Bethel will be reduced to nothing.”

Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba were once places associated with great privilege and spiritual heritage. Bethel was the place where God met Jacob (Genesis 28:11-19, Genesis 35:1-7). Gilgal was the place where Israel’s spiritual reproach was rolled away in the days of Joshua (Joshua 5:1-12). Beersheba was connected to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 21:22-33, 26:23-33, 46:1-5). Now these were places of vain, empty worship.

–David Guzik

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

7 There are those who turn justice into bitterness
and cast righteousness to the ground.

Their justice system is now only a legal system, for the true end of justice is discarded.

8 He who made the Pleiades and Orion,
who turns midnight into dawn
and darkens day into night,
who calls for the waters of the sea
and pours them out over the face of the land—
the LORD is his name.
9 With a blinding flash he destroys the stronghold
and brings the fortified city to ruin.

The LORD is able to create the cosmos and take care of it day by day — surely, Israel, he is able to save you!

10 There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court
and detest the one who tells the truth.

Amos tells us the cause of coming judgment — the terrible way that the people of Israel treat one another, especially how the strong take advantage of the weak. The weak have no voice in the courts, are robbed by oppressive taxes. The rich take advantage with bribes and pay off the system to drive the poor from justice . . . 

11 You levy a straw tax on the poor
and impose a tax on their grain.
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,
you will not live in them;
though you have planted lush vineyards,
you will not drink their wine.
12 For I know how many are your offenses
and how great your sins.

There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes
and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
13 Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times,
for the times are evil.

14 Seek good, not evil,
that you may live.
Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you,
just as you say he is.

Romans 12:9 (English Standard Version)

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

15 Hate evil, love good;
maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy
on the remnant of Joseph.

Amos proclaims God’s cure for Israel’s sin. They must begin to seek good and not evil. They must transform their corrupt courts and establish justice.

16 Therefore this is what the Lord, the LORD God Almighty, says:

“There will be wailing in all the streets
and cries of anguish in every public square.
The farmers will be summoned to weep
and the mourners to wail.
17 There will be wailing in all the vineyards,
for I will pass through your midst,”
says the LORD.

The Day of the LORD

18 Woe to you who long
for the day of the LORD!
Why do you long for the day of the LORD?
That day will be darkness, not light.
19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion
only to meet a bear,
as though he entered his house
and rested his hand on the wall
only to have a snake bite him.
20 Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light—
pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?

21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.

“But, Lord, I was in church every Sunday!  I helped with the youth!  I served on various committees!”

And the Lord will say, “Depart from me.  I don’t know you.”

(See Matthew 25:31-46)

22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!

25 “Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings
forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel?
26 You have lifted up the shrine of your king,
the pedestal of your idols,
the star of your god—
which you made for yourselves.
27 Therefore I will send you into exile beyond Damascus,”
says the LORD, whose name is God Almighty.

This is serious business, says the Lord.  I cannot tolerate your sinfulness and idolatry; there will be extreme consequences.  But even now I call you back to me.



Chris Christensen and “Let Justice Roll Down.”

Let justice roll down like a mighty river,

And righteousness roll on and on;

Till the desert becomes like the Garden of Eden

Where the nations will come and be healed

And the glory of God is revealed!


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

Images courtesy of:
Let justice roll down.  http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3031/2996364188_7958fc1d45.jpg
Amos 5:24.  http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_9ZCTQltychY/TCIG12uBiKI/AAAAAAAAB8U/629yTZ0IhxU/s1600/Amos+5.24.jpg

779.) Amos 4

April 26, 2012

I grew up in the rural Midwest and signs like this one were familiar sightings.

Amos 4 (New International Version)

Israel Has Not Returned to God

1 Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria,
you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy
and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”

Amos wasn’t trained as a prophet, he was a simple herdsman and farmer.  When he wanted to get the point across to the indulgent women of Israel, he called them fat cows.  The livestock of Bashan–in the northern part of Israel, the modern-day Golan Heights–was known for being fat and healthy.

Psalm 22:12 mentions the strong bulls of Bashan; Ezekiel 39:18 mentions the large livestock, the fatlings of Bashan.  It’s no exaggeration to say that Amos calls these women “fat cows.”  Though it is true that the very skinny ideal of female beauty is a modern phenomenon and especially in ancient times plumpness was a valued sign of affluence, we can count on it that at no time in human history has a woman appreciated being called a fat cow

It wasn’t that these women were plump and affluent, it was that they gained their wealth and affluence by oppressing and crushing the less fortunate (or with their demands for luxuries, driving their husbands to greater injustices), and that they used their affluence in the pure, self-focused pursuit of pleasure.  God saw this and promised to hold them to account.

–David Guzik

2 The Sovereign LORD has sworn by his holiness:
“The time will surely come
when you will be taken away with hooks,
the last of you with fishhooks.
3 You will each go straight out
through breaches in the wall,
and you will be cast out toward Harmon,”
declares the LORD.

God tells unrepentant Israel of their coming agony when they are conquered and exiled by the Assyrians. When the Assyrians depopulated and exiled a conquered community, they led the captives away on journeys of hundreds of miles, with the captives naked and attached together with a system of strings and fishhooks pierced through their lower lip. God would make sure they were led in this humiliating manner through the broken walls of their conquered cities. This would thoroughly humble the fat cows of Israel.

–David Guzik

4 “Go to Bethel and sin;
go to Gilgal and sin yet more.
Bring your sacrifices every morning,
your tithes every three years.
5 Burn leavened bread as a thank offering
and brag about your freewill offerings—
boast about them, you Israelites,
for this is what you love to do,”
declares the Sovereign LORD.

6 “I gave you empty stomachs in every city
and lack of bread in every town,
yet you have not returned to me,”
declares the LORD.

God describes the chastisement he has sent to them, to encourage them to repent of their sins and return to faithfulness.

7 “I also withheld rain from you
when the harvest was still three months away.
I sent rain on one town,
but withheld it from another.
One field had rain;
another had none and dried up.
8 People staggered from town to town for water
but did not get enough to drink,
yet you have not returned to me,”
declares the LORD.

9 “Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards,
destroying them with blight and mildew.

mildew on a vine leaf

Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees,
yet you have not returned to me,”
declares the LORD.

10 “I sent plagues among you
as I did to Egypt.
I killed your young men with the sword,
along with your captured horses.
I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps,
yet you have not returned to me,”
declares the LORD.

11 “I overthrew some of you
as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire,
yet you have not returned to me,”
declares the LORD.

Drought, blight, plague, war . . . nothing humbled them.  Their hearts were too hard to face their own sin.  I have a friend who says, “God will bring you back to himself as gently as you will allow him.”  Gentle did not work with these folks!

12 “Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel,
and because I will do this to you, Israel,
prepare to meet your God.”

13 He who forms the mountains,
who creates the wind,
and who reveals his thoughts to mankind,
who turns dawn to darkness,
and treads on the heights of the earth—
the LORD God Almighty is his name.



“Meet With Me”  by Ten Shekel Shirt reminds us that we are often preparing to meet our God.


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

Images courtesy of:
Prepare.  http://avco.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/prepare-to-meet-god.jpg
Roy Delgado cartoon.  http://www.cartoonstock.com/lowres/rde7470l.jpg
mildew.  http://hortuscamden.com/images/plants/Mildew_on_grape_vine_leaf_.jpg

778.) Amos 3

April 25, 2012

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

Amos 3 (New International Version)

Witnesses Summoned Against Israel

1Hear this word, people of Israel, the word the LORD has spoken against you—against the whole family I brought up out of Egypt:

The central act of redemption in the Old Testament was the Lord bringing the people of Israel out of their slavery in Egypt.  God frequently refers to himself as the one who rescued them, reminding them of his goodness towards them.  Israel’s rejection of the Lord is all the more inexcusable because of God’s wonderful deliverance!

2 “You only have I chosen
of all the families of the earth;
therefore I will punish you
for all your sins.”

3 Do two walk together
unless they have agreed to do so?

Here Amos asks several questions that have obvious answers — “Is the Pope Catholic?” kind of questions.

4 Does a lion roar in the thicket
when it has no prey?
Does it growl in its den
when it has caught nothing?
5 Does a bird swoop down to a trap on the ground
when no bait is there?
Does a trap spring up from the ground
if it has not caught anything?
6 When a trumpet sounds in a city,
do not the people tremble?
When disaster comes to a city,
has not the LORD caused it?

7 Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing
without revealing his plan
to his servants the prophets.

8 The lion has roared—
who will not fear?
The Sovereign LORD has spoken—
who can but prophesy?

Amos is saying he must prophesy once the Lord has spoken, just as people must feel fear when they hear a lion roar.

9 Proclaim to the fortresses of Ashdod
and to the fortresses of Egypt:
“Assemble yourselves on the mountains of Samaria;
see the great unrest within her
and the oppression among her people.”

10 “They do not know how to do right,” declares the LORD,
“who store up in their fortresses
what they have plundered and looted.”

11 Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says:

“An enemy will overrun your land,
pull down your strongholds
and plunder your fortresses.”

This was fulfilled in the Assyrian invasion of Israel, less than 30 years after Amos made this prophecy. For ten years, Israel was a subject state in the Assyrian Empire.

12 This is what the LORD says:

“As a shepherd rescues from the lion’s mouth
only two leg bones or a piece of an ear,
so will the Israelites living in Samaria be rescued,
with only the head of a bed
and a piece of fabric from a couch.”

13 “Hear this and testify against the descendants of Jacob,” declares the Lord, the LORD God Almighty.

14 “On the day I punish Israel for her sins,
I will destroy the altars of Bethel;
the horns of the altar will be cut off
and fall to the ground.
15 I will tear down the winter house
along with the summer house;
the houses adorned with ivory will be destroyed
and the mansions will be demolished,”
declares the LORD.

This was fulfilled in the Assyrian exile of Israel, less than 40 years after Amos made this prophecy. After a little more than ten years as a subject state in the Assyrian Empire, Israel was completely conquered by Assyria and the people of Israel were taken from their land and scattered throughout the Assyrian Empire.  The Ten Tribes of the Northern Kingdom disappeared; all their treasure was worthless to save them.

“They do not know how to do right,” the Lord says in verse 10, as they put their trust in their lovely possessions.  The Israelites found out the hard way that “things” don’t last.  But faith, hope, and love — these remain.



I remember as a child hearing George Beverly Shea sing this song as my family watched Billy Graham Crusades on television.  Shea was born in 1909, son of a Wesleyan Methodist preacher, and to the best of my knowledge he is still alive.  “I’d Rather Have Jesus.”


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

Images courtesy of:
sand castle.  http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_aT0UiseEjKc/TDO8G7MDuYI/AAAAAAAAAEc/-_ALxvNTxK0/s1600/sand-castle.jpg
roaring lion.   http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-e1jL9SP_VjQ/TWMSZqCr7LI/AAAAAAAAADY/eji-8T5FgRQ/s1600/RoaringLion.jpg
map of Assyria.  http://www.ucg.org/files/tribe-trackers/p_map01large.jpg

777.) Amos 2

April 24, 2012

It is our only hope -- that the Lord will bring us to face our sins, confess them by name, and ask for the forgiveness which we so desperately need and which Christ is so willing to give!

Amos 2 (New International Version)

 1 This is what the LORD says:

“For three sins of Moab,
even for four, I will not relent.
Because he burned to ashes
the bones of Edom’s king,
2 I will send fire on Moab
that will consume the fortresses of Kerioth.
Moab will go down in great tumult
amid war cries and the blast of the trumpet.
3 I will destroy her ruler
and kill all her officials with him,”
says the LORD.

Moab was a southern neighbor to Judah, and the last of the six judgments Amos pronounces against the Gentile nations in this section. God promises judgment against Moab because of their cruelty to Edom and her king.

4 This is what the LORD says:

“For three sins of Judah,
even for four, I will not relent.
Because they have rejected the law of the LORD
and have not kept his decrees,
because they have been led astray by false gods,
the gods their ancestors followed,
5 I will send fire on Judah
that will consume the fortresses of Jerusalem.”

The people of Judah were given the wonderful gift of God’s word, the Law, the Commandments.  When they turned away from the truth of God’s word, it is no surprise that they then embraced the lies of false gods.  We do not have to look far to see the same exchange in our own world (our own lives?) today.  Lord, sanctify me in your word, your truth.

Judgment on Israel

6This is what the LORD says:   “For three sins of Israel,
even for four, I will not relent.
They sell the innocent for silver,
and the needy for a pair of sandals.
7 They trample on the heads of the poor
as on the dust of the ground
and deny justice to the oppressed.
Father and son use the same girl
and so profane my holy name.
8 They lie down beside every altar
on garments taken in pledge.
In the house of their god
they drink wine taken as fines.

For Israel, the whole picture is almost overwhelming.  Amos pictures a man committing sexual immorality with a temple prostitute — the same girl his son visited the day before — keeping warm with a garment extorted from the poor, toasting his success with wine bought with money dishonestly gained.

–David Guzik

9 “Yet I destroyed the Amorites before them,
though they were tall as the cedars
and strong as the oaks.
I destroyed their fruit above
and their roots below.
10 I brought you up out of Egypt
and led you forty years in the wilderness
to give you the land of the Amorites.

11 “I also raised up prophets from among your children
and Nazirites from among your youths.
Is this not true, people of Israel?”
declares the LORD.
12 “But you made the Nazirites drink wine
and commanded the prophets not to prophesy.

The vow of a Nazirite was a special vow of dedication unto the Lord,  described in Numbers 6 and used to express a special desire to draw close to God and to separate from the comforts and pleasures of this world. Under the Nazirite vow a man would eat or drink nothing from the grape vine, would not cut his hair, and would not go near any dead carcass.  Here the Lord condemns Israel because they did not receive this honor with gratitude and humility, but instead rejected and despised the Lord.

13 “Now then, I will crush you
as a cart crushes when loaded with grain.
14 The swift will not escape,
the strong will not muster their strength,
and the warrior will not save his life.
15 The archer will not stand his ground,
the fleet-footed soldier will not get away,
and the horseman will not save his life.
16 Even the bravest warriors
will flee naked on that day,”
declares the LORD.

Any time justice is perverted: any time the rich receive preferential treatment, or the poor are oppressed;  any time people cheat and manipulate and make money off of others in questionable ways, even if it is legal;  any time people unfairly profit at the expense of the unfortunate —  God sees from heaven and he promises to set it right.



How easy to read these judgments and think they are meant for others, and forget to see my own selfishness and unkindness.  That is why this song from the Oslo Gospel Choir is one of my favorites — it reminds me of my need of the Lord’s grace!  I am “Never gonna lose my way” because “I trust in You.”

I was doing fine so long,
thinking I was too strong,
and nothing in this world could shake me.

Everything was black or white,
either wrong or right,
condemning was so very easy.
But I’ve learned my lesson,
I see my my misery
and it’s my confession,
I’m pulling though,  it’s all because of grace I see

I am never gonna lose my way,
step by step You lead me day by day,
and I’m confident that You will always see me through,
my feet on solid ground, I trust in You!

When I used to feel so good,
doing what I should,
convinced that I knew all the answers.

Yes, I simply couldn’t see
it was all a mystery,
how people could be weak and faulty.

But I’m getting wiser,
yes, I see my misery,
and it’s so much nicer,
I’m pulling through,
it’s all because the grace I see.

I am never gonna lose my way,
step by step You lead me day by day,
and I’m glad to know that You will always see me through,
my feet on solid ground, I trust in You!

I am never gonna lose my way,
step by step You lead me day by day,
and I’m confident that You will always see me through,
my feet on solid ground, I trust in You!

I trust in You!


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

Images courtesy of:
Be sure your sins . . .   http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5014/5508892182_a3f0e4497f_z.jpg
John 17:17.  http://wallpaper4god.com/en/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/john-1717_1995_1280x1024.jpg

776.) Amos 1

April 23, 2012

Amos accuses Israel of false religion---"having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power" (2 Timothy 3:5). In the midst of the religious rituals, idolatry and social injustice thrived.

Amos 1 (New International Version)

 1 The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa—

Amos seems to have had no formal theological training.  He was a farmer, a shepherd, from Tekoa, a town about 10 miles south of Jerusalem.  He came from the Southern Kingdom of Judah, but he speaks to the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

the vision he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel.

2 He said:

“The LORD roars from Zion
and thunders from Jerusalem;
the pastures of the shepherds dry up,
and the top of Carmel withers.”

Judgment on Israel’s Neighbors

3This is what the LORD says:   “For three sins of Damascus,
even for four, I will not relent.

“For three sins . . . even for four” does not mean the total number of the sins.  It is the “formula” Amos uses to introduce God’s displeasure and coming judgment.  The idea is sin upon sin upon sin.

Because she threshed Gilead
with sledges having iron teeth,
4 I will send fire on the house of Hazael
that will consume the fortresses of Ben-Hadad.
5 I will break down the gate of Damascus;
I will destroy the king who is in the Valley of Aven
and the one who holds the scepter in Beth Eden.
The people of Aram will go into exile to Kir,”
says the LORD.

Damascus, the capitol of Syria, has destroyed the Israelite area of Gilead so completely it is as if the land itself had been threshed.

6 This is what the LORD says:

“For three sins of Gaza,
even for four, I will not relent.
Because she took captive whole communities
and sold them to Edom,
7 I will send fire on the walls of Gaza
that will consume her fortresses.
8 I will destroy the king of Ashdod
and the one who holds the scepter in Ashkelon.
I will turn my hand against Ekron,
till the last of the Philistines are dead,”
says the Sovereign LORD.

“The condemnation here is not against slavery in and of itself, just as the previous oracle was not against war in and of itself. The crime is not that soldiers were enslaved after being taken in battle, which was the standard practice, but that the Philistines used their temporary supremacy to enslave whole populations – soldiers and civilians, men and women, adults and children, young and old – for commercial profit. Gaza did not even need the slaves. She merely sold them to Edom for more money.”

–James Montgomery Boice

9 This is what the LORD says:

“For three sins of Tyre,
even for four, I will not relent.
Because she sold whole communities of captives to Edom,
disregarding a treaty of brotherhood,
10 I will send fire on the walls of Tyre
that will consume her fortresses.”

God promises to burn the walls of Tyre, a city in Lebanon.  City walls were defensive; burned walls indicated defeat.

11 This is what the LORD says:

“For three sins of Edom,
even for four, I will not relent.
Because he pursued his brother with a sword
and slaughtered the women of the land,
because his anger raged continually
and his fury flamed unchecked,
12 I will send fire on Teman
that will consume the fortresses of Bozrah.”

The people of Edom were descended from Esau, the brother of Jacob.   Jacob was the father of the 12 tribes of Israel.  God condemns the Edomites for their anger against their own brother.

13 This is what the LORD says:

“For three sins of Ammon,
even for four, I will not relent.
Because he ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead
in order to extend his borders,
14 I will set fire to the walls of Rabbah
that will consume her fortresses
amid war cries on the day of battle,
amid violent winds on a stormy day.
15 Her king will go into exile,
he and his officials together,”
says the LORD.

Gilead suffered not only at the hands of the Syrians, but also from the Ammonites.



“Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise”  arranged for brass and played by the Foundation Brass of Bob Jones University.

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might;
Thy justice like mountains high soaring above
Thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.

To all life thou givest to both great and small;
In all life thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish but nought changeth thee.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
All laud we would render: O help us to see
‘Tis only the splendour of light hideth thee.


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

Images courtesy of:
Amos, by Dore.   http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/bible-images/hires/Amos-Chapter-1-The-Prophet-Amos.jpg

775.) James 5

April 20, 2012

Calligraphy by Tim Botts

James 5

J.B. Phillips New Testament

Riches are going to prove a liability, not an asset, to the selfish

1-6And now, you plutocrats, is the time for you to weep and moan because of the miseries in store for you!

Hearing Jesus in James:

Luke 6:24 (New International Version)

“But woe to you who are rich,
   for you have already received your comfort.”

Your richest goods are ruined, your hoard of clothes is moth-eaten, your gold and silver are tarnished. Yes, their very tarnish will be the evidence of your wicked hoarding and you will shrink from them as if they were red-hot. You have made a fine pile in these last days, haven’t you? But look, here is the pay of the reaper you hired and whom you cheated, and it is shouting against you! And the cries of the other labourers you swindled are heard by the Lord of Hosts himself. Yes, you have had a magnificent time on this earth, and have indulged yourselves to the full. You have picked out just what you wanted like soldiers looting after battle. You have condemned and ruined innocent men in your career, and they have been powerless to stop you.

Ultimate justice will surely come: be patient meanwhile

7-8But be patient, my brothers, as you wait for the Lord to come. Look at the farmer quietly awaiting his precious harvest. See how he has to possess his soul in patience till the land has had the early and late rains. So must you be patient, resting your hearts on the ultimate certainty. The Lord’s coming is very near.

The pastor who married my parents in 1946 was quite an elderly man when I knew him in my childhood.  But I clearly remember him announcing on several occasions that he would not die, because the Lord was coming soon.  Well, he has been dead and buried for decades now.  Yet James is no less true — The Lord’s coming is very near.  We wait with joyful expectation!

9 Don’t make complaints against each other in the meantime my brothers (as you wait for Christ’s return)—you may be the one at fault yourself. The judge himself is already at the door.

10-11 For our example of the patient endurance of suffering we can take the prophets who have spoken in the Lord’s name. Remember that it is usually those who have patiently endured to whom we accord the word “blessed!” You have heard of Job’s patient endurance and how God dealt with him in the end, and therefore you have seen that the Lord is merciful and full of understanding pity for us men.

Don’t emphasize with oaths; speak the plain truth

12It is of the highest importance, my brothers, that your speech should be free from oaths (whether they are “by” heaven or earth or anything else). Your yes should be a plain yes, and your no a plain no, and then you cannot go wrong in the matter.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 5:34-37 (New International Version)

“But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne;  or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.  And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.  All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

Prayer is a great weapon

13If any of you is in trouble let him pray. If anyone is flourishing let him sing praises to God.



I come from a musical family and my husband is musical and I think you can make a good case that God is musical, too!  So today I will give you one of my favorites, a hymn I have sung every week — if not every day — for most of my adult life.  “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” was written in 1680 and is now widely sung around the world.  Are you flourishing?  Then join in!


If anyone is ill he should send for the Church elders. They should pray over him, anointing him with oil in the Lord’s name. Believing prayer will save the sick man; the Lord will restore him and any sins that he has committed will be forgiven. You should get into the habit of admitting your sins to each other, and praying for each other, so that if sickness comes to you, you may be healed.

Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.

–from “Morte D’Arthur,”  by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Tremendous power is made available through a good man’s earnest prayer. Do you remember Elijah? He was a man like us but he prayed earnestly that it should not rain. In fact, not a drop fell on the land for three and a half years. Then he prayed again, the heavens gave the rain and the earth sprouted with vegetation as usual.

A concluding hint

19-20 My brothers, if any of you should wander away from the truth and another should turn him back on to the right path, then the latter may be sure that in turning a man back from his wandering course he has rescued a soul from death, and his loving action will “cover a multitude of sins”.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Mark 2:1-12 (New Living Translation)

When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home.  Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them,  four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat.  They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”

But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves,  “What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”

Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts?  Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’?  So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said,  “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”

And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”


J. B. Phillips, “The New Testament in Modern English”, 1962 edition by HarperCollins

Images courtesy of:
Botts.  http://www.prestoimages.net/graphics02/5592_pd287443full.jpg
coming soon.  http://www.bearinghiscross.com/jesus%20is%20coming%20again.jpg

774.) James 4

April 19, 2012

James 4

J.B. Phillips New Testament

Your jealousies spring from love of what the world can give you

1-3But about the feuds and struggles that exist among you—where do you suppose they come from? Can’t you see that they arise from conflicting passions within yourselves? You crave for something and don’t get it, you are jealous and envious of what others have got and you don’t possess it yourselves. Consequently in your exasperated frustration you struggle and fight with one another. You don’t get what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And when you do ask he doesn’t give it to you, for you ask in quite the wrong spirit—you only want to satisfy your own desires.

As the 20th-century philosopher Mick Jagger said so well, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

4-6 You are like unfaithful wives, flirting with the glamour of this world, and never realising that to be the world’s lover means becoming the enemy of God! Anyone who deliberately chooses to love the world is thereby making himself God’s enemy.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Luke 16:13 (English Standard Version)

“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Do you think what the scriptures have to say about this is a mere formality? Or do you imagine that this spirit of passionate jealousy is the Spirit he has caused to live in us? No, he gives us grace potent enough to meet this and every other evil spirit, if we are humble enough to receive it. That is why he says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’

You should be humble, not proud

7Be humble then before God. but resist the devil and you’ll find he’ll run away from you.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 4:1-11 (New International Version)

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.  “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

   “‘He will command his angels concerning you,
   and they will lift you up in their hands,
   so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

8-10 Come close to God and he will come close to you. Realise that you have sinned and get your hands clean again. Realise that you have been disloyal and get your hearts made true once more.

Many of us are discovering that Christian growth does not happen apart from some disciplines like spiritual reading, meditation, prayer, journaling, Bible study, and worship.  Henri Nouwen has said that discipleship can never be real without discipline.

Many of us—I was one—rebel against the idea of self-discipline.  It seems easier to do “what comes naturally.”  But I’ve found that neglect of spiritual disciplines leads only to stagnation and frustration.

Disciplines make the time and space in which God can affect our lives.  He is always with us, but only through discipline can we become quiet enough to recognize his presence, to hear his voice from among the many that speak to us.  Someone has called this “active passivity.”  We grow by receiving, but we have to give; our task is to learn and practice those disciplines by which we receive.

I don’t do the disciplines in order to win God’s approval; I know I already have that.  I don’t even do them to feel I’ve made a certain amount of “progress” or to “make” growth happen.  I just do them, and leave the result to God.

Lord, I desire to grow closer to you.

–Lyn Klug


As you come close to God you should be deeply sorry, you should be grieved, you should even be in tears. Your laughter will have to become mourning, your high spirits will have to become heartfelt dejection. You will have to feel very small in the sight of God before he will set you on your feet once more.

It is for God to judge, not for us

11-12Never pull each other to pieces, my brothers.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 7:1-2 (New International Version)

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

If you do you are judging your brother and setting yourself up in the place of God’s Law; you have become in fact a critic of the Law. Yet if you start to criticise the Law instead of obeying it you are setting yourself up as judge, and there is only one judge, the one who gave the Law, to whom belongs absolute power of life and death. How can you then be so silly as to imagine that you are your neighbour’s judge?

It is still true that man proposes, but God disposes

13-17 Just a moment, now, you who say, “We are going to such-and-such a city today or tomorrow. We shall stay there a year doing business and make a profit”! How do you know what will happen even tomorrow? What, after all, is your life? It is like a puff of smoke visible for a little while and then dissolving into thin air. Your remarks should be prefaced with, “If it is the Lord’s will, we shall be alive and will do so-and-so.” As it is, you get a certain pride in yourself in planning your future with such confidence. That sort of pride is all wrong. No doubt you agree with the above in theory. Well, remember that if a man knows what is right and fails to do it, his failure is a real sin.



“Draw near to God . . .”  Here are the Sharon Singers of the Sharon Mennonite Bible Institute with “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” written by Sarah F. Adams in 1841.  I did you all a favor by not choosing a video with Titanic pictures!


J. B. Phillips, “The New Testament in Modern English”, 1962 edition by HarperCollins

Images courtesy of:
Trust in his timing . . .   http://media-cdn.pinterest.com/upload/237072367854205931_LxmGRAua_c.jpg
James 4:8.  http://media.photobucket.com/image/recent/raylapke/James48.jpg

773.) James 3

April 18, 2012

James 3

J.B. Phillips New Testament

How do we control this tongue? Make it a matter of daily prayer. Begin by praying Psalm 141:3: “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Here are some other verses on words and the tongue to write in your prayer journal and pray into your life daily:
Proverbs 10:21 — “The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment.”   Lord, may my lips nourish people today.
Psalm 17:3 — “Today I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.”  Lord, help me choose righteousness, not sinfulness.
Philippians 4:8 — “Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. . . ”  May I think on these things today.
I Timothy 4:12 — “Set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”  Let me remember, Lord, that I am representing you.

The responsibility of a teacher’s position

1Don’t aim at adding to the number of teachers, my brothers, I beg you! Remember that we who are teachers will be judged by a much higher standard.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 5:19   (ESV)

“Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

The danger of the tongue

“Three things come not back — the spent arrow, the spoken word, the lost opportunity.”

2-6We all make mistakes in all kinds of ways, but the man who can claim that he never says the wrong thing can consider himself perfect, for if he can control his tongue he can control every other part of his personality! Men control the movements of a large animal like the horse with a tiny bit placed in its mouth. Ships too, for all their size and the momentum they have with a strong wind behind them, are controlled by a very small rudder according to the course chosen by the helmsman. The human tongue is physically small, but what tremendous effects it can boast of! A whole forest can be set ablaze by a tiny spark of fire, and the tongue is as dangerous as any fire, with vast potentialities for evil. It can poison the whole body, it can make the whole of life a blazing hell.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 15:18  (ESV)

“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.

7-12 Beasts, birds, reptiles and all kinds of sea-creatures can be, and in fact are, tamed by man, but no one can tame the human tongue. It is an evil always liable to break out, and the poison it spreads is deadly. We use the tongue to bless our Father, God, and we use the same tongue to curse our fellow-men, who are all created in God’s likeness. Blessing and curses come out of the same mouth—surely, my brothers, this is the sort of thing that never ought to happen! Have you ever known a spring to give sweet and bitter water simultaneously? Have you ever seen a fig-tree with a crop of olives, or seen figs growing on a vine? It is just as impossible for a spring to give fresh and salt water at the same time.

Psalm 19:14   (NIV)

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Real, spiritual wisdom means humility, not rivalry

13-16Are there some wise and understanding men among you? Then your lives will be an example of the humility that is born of true wisdom. But if your heart is full of rivalry and bitter jealousy, then do not boast of your wisdom—don’t deny the truth that you must recognise in your inmost heart. You may acquire a certain superficial wisdom, but it does not come from God—it comes from this world, from your own lower nature, even from the devil. For wherever you find jealousy and rivalry you also find disharmony and all other kinds of evil.

Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV)

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God . . .

17-18 The wisdom that comes from God is first utterly pure, then peace-loving, gentle, approachable, full of tolerant thoughts and kindly actions, with no breath of favouritism or hint of hypocrisy.

Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)

. . . But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

And the wise are peace-makers who go on quietly sowing for a harvest of righteousness—in other people and in themselves.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 5:9   (ESV)

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”



“Bite My Tongue”  by Relient K, a Christian rock band from Ohio.


J. B. Phillips, “The New Testament in Modern English”, 1962 edition by HarperCollins

Images courtesy of:
taming the tongue.   http://www.rosesblossom.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/tongue.jpg

772.) James 2

April 17, 2012

James 2

J.B. Phillips New Testament

“Luther was specially severe on James, and the adverse judgment of a great man on any book can be a millstone round that book’s neck forever.  It is in the concluding paragraph of his Preface to the New Testament that there stands Luther’s famous verdict on James:

In sum:  the gospel and the first epistle of St. John, St. Paul’s epistles, especially those to the Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians; and Peter’s first epistle, are the books which show Christ to you.  They teach everything you need to know for your salvation, even if you were never to see or hear any other book or hear any other teaching.  In comparison with these the epistle of James is an epistle full of straw, because it contains nothing evangelical.”

–William Barclay

Well, Luther is entitled to his opinion — and I am entitled to mine!  I find James a practical and helpful book, one that puts in black  and white how a believer ought to behave.  For this reason, I am pointing out on our studies the many parts of James which echo the voice of Jesus Christ.

Avoid snobbery: keep the royal law

1-7Don’t ever attempt, my brothers, to combine snobbery with faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ! Suppose one man comes into your meeting well-dressed and with a gold ring on his finger, and another man, obviously poor, arrives in shabby clothes. If you pay special attention to the well-dressed man by saying, “Please sit here—it’s an excellent seat”, and say to the poor man, “You stand over there, please, or if you must sit, sit on the floor”, doesn’t that prove that you are making class-distinctions in your mind, and setting yourselves up to assess a man’s quality?—a very bad thing. For do notice, my brothers, that God chose poor men, whose only wealth was their faith, and made them heirs to the kingdom promised to those who love him. And if you behave as I have suggested, it is the poor man that you are insulting.

Look around you. Isn’t it the rich who are always trying to “boss” you, isn’t it the rich who drag you into litigation? Isn’t it usually the rich who blaspheme the glorious name by which you are known? 8-11 If you obey the royal law, expressed by the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’, all is well. But once you allow any invidious distinctions to creep in, you are sinning, you have broken God’s Law.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 22:36-39 (New International Version)

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Remember that a man who keeps the whole Law but for a single exception is none the less a law-breaker. The one who said, ‘Do not commit adultery’, also said, ‘Do not murder’. If you were to keep clear of adultery but were to murder a man you would have become a breaker of God’s whole Law.

12-13 Anyway, you should speak and act as men who will be judged by the law of freedom. The man who makes no allowances for others will find none made for him.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 6:15 (New International Version)

“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

It is still true that “mercy smiles in the face of judgment.”

The relation between faith and action

Now what use is it, my brothers, for a man to say he “has faith” if his actions do not correspond with it? Could that sort of faith save anyone’s soul? If a fellow man or woman has no clothes to wear and nothing to eat, and one of you say, “Good luck to you I hope you’ll keep warm and find enough to eat”, and yet give them nothing to meet their physical needs, what on earth is the good of that? Yet that is exactly what a bare faith without a corresponding life is like—useless and dead. If we only “have faith” a man could easily challenge us by saying, “you say that you have faith and I have merely good actions. Well, all you can do is to show me a faith without corresponding actions, but I can show you by my actions that I have faith as well.

Hearing Jesus in James:

Matthew 7:16 (New International Version)

“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?”

To the man who thinks that faith by itself is enough I feel inclined to say, “So you believe that there is one God? That’s fine. So do all the devils in hell and shudder in terror!” For, my dear short-sighted man, can’t you see far enough to realise that faith without the right actions is dead and useless? Think of Abraham, our ancestor. Wasn’t it his action which really justified him in God’s sight when his faith led him to offer his son Isaac on the altar?

Can’t you see that his faith and his actions were, so to speak, partners—that his faith was implemented by his deed? That is what the scripture means when it says: ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. And he was called the friend of God.’

24-25 A man is justified before God by what he does as well as by what he believes. Rahab who was a prostitute and a foreigner has been quoted as an example of faith, yet surely it was her action that pleased God, when she welcomed Joshua’s reconnoitring party and got them safely back by a different route.

"In Rahab's Window" by Bethany Vanderputten

26 Yes, faith without action is as dead as a body without a soul.



“My Own Little World”  by Matthew West.  Wow.  Are you willing to take a risk with your faith and serve others in a way slightly out of your comfort zone?


J. B. Phillips, “The New Testament in Modern English”, 1962 edition by HarperCollins

Images courtesy of:
Faith that works.   http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-SROReXbciVU/TmnD9WHW2AI/AAAAAAAABmA/nMsyW7zfq7E/s1600/Screen+shot+2011-09-09+at+08.44.02.jpg
Abraham and Isaac.  http://st-mark.us/pray/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/abraham-and-isaac-on-mount-moriah.jpg
Vanderputten.    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_BtquRaCDOs8/S0I0P8CtVtI/AAAAAAAAAm4/rGpDPBwiURs/s400/InRahabsWindow_sm.jpg