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Posts Tagged ‘prophet’

half

In 2 Chronicles 25, we find a young man who has been appointed to leadership.  Amaziah was 25 years old when his father was killed and he became king of Judah.  This is how the text describes him:

And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not with a whole heart. ~2 Chronicles 25:2

Do you know anyone like this?  These ones are half-hearted, half-committed living in halfway halftime all the time.  It’s no way to be in any area of life, but when it comes to spiritual matters, halfway halftime will never cut it.  Let’s learn from one who did it wrong.

Apparently Amaziah wasn’t all in when it came to his dealing and disposition toward God.  It sounds like he just got by with a few good deeds here and there and perhaps a friendly front in regards to his maker.  Matthew Henry says, “The general character of Amaziah: He did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, worshiped the true God, kept the temple service a going, and countenanced religion in his kingdom; but he did not do it with a perfect heart, that is, he was not a man of serious piety or devotion himself, nor had he any zeal for the exercises of religion.  He was not enemy to it, but a cool and indifferent friend.”

This chapter tells us of a couple things Amaziah did and it reveals his not so whole heart in the process.  The first thing we are told is that Amaziah obeyed the law of Moses by sparing the children of those who assassinated his father.  Next, we learn that he calls the army of Israel to help him in battle, but reneges at the counsel of a prophet.  He actually pays these guys to come fight with his army and then, because the prophet warns him to trust in God instead, he sends them home.

One has to wonder why he called these guys in the first place.

Amaziah was going out to fight the Edomites.  This was a people known for their idolatry.  They were the descendants of Esau – Jacob’s twin who sold his birthright for a bowl of soup.  Anyway, just 50 or 60 years prior to this conquest, Judah’s army had been 3 or 4 times more numerous.  Sin had so enveloped these people that their army’s number was one fourth what it had just previously been.  “Sin weakens a people, diminishes them, dispirits them, and lessens their number and figure.”  Matthew Henry

Amaziah would not have even gotten himself into this issue of paying Israel’s soldiers, sending them away, losing his money, and having to deal with their rioting and mischief-making afterward if he had just first considered the lack of help any of his ancestors had in using them as allies previously.  Some just don’t learn from past mistakes I guess.

Calling in men in addition to his own was distrust of God.  Matthew Henry says, “If he had made sure of God’s presence, the army he had of his own was sufficient.”  Not only that, but particularly these men he was not to call.  They were not trustworthy and therefore no good and godly favor could ever be expected by their employment.

So he listens to the prophets and the extra troops go home before the battle.  When Amaziah got back from the battle – which he won without Israel, by the way – the very first thing he does is worship…the idols of the Edomites.  What??!

Yep.  God gave him victory and he just couldn’t wait to get home and set up the idols of the men he just conquered and worship them…because…those false gods saved the Edomites so well…right.

This is completely ridiculous!!!  But this is the kind of thing humans do.  God, in his mercy, sends Amaziah yet another prophet.  Here’s how it goes:

 Therefore the Lord was angry with Amaziah and sent to him a prophet, who said to him, “Why have you sought the gods of a people who did not deliver their own people from your hand?” 16 But as he was speaking, the king said to him, “Have we made you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be struck down?” So the prophet stopped, but said, “I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel.” ~2 Chronicles 25:15-16

This time, Amaziah does not heed the prophet’s true words.  He tells him to stop talking.  He asks this prophet who he thinks he is.  He goes so far as to warn him that if he doesn’t shut up he will be killed.

“So the prophet stopped…”

That’s the saddest line in this entire account.  “Those that will not take advice from the word of God, which would guide them aright, will justly be left to the bad advice of those that will counsel them to their destruction.  Let those be made fools that will not be made wise.”  Matthew Henry

When the true prophet stops talking, it is time to fear.  It is time to start looking over your shoulder, Amaziah.  You are in a bad place.

The prophet does stop talking, stop instructing, stop leading Amaziah.  He gives one final warning and he lets God have at it with this hell-bent idolator.

Wait.  What?!  Isn’t this the guy who just obeyed another prophet at his own personal expense and embarrassment?  Isn’t this the guy who just won a great victory?  It is.  But a prophet asking him to forsake his money and his reputation did not strike at the heart of this half-hearted not so religious guy like the one asking him to forsake his idols did.  Herein we find his true god which was no god at all.

Some men can put on a good show of religion until someone comes along and strikes at the heart of their true god.

In the end, Amaziah was killed by the very men whom he had tried to employ and trust in in the place of God’s presence.  Truly though, it was his pride and his lack of willingness to listen to sound, godly counsel that ultimately destroyed him.

There was something terribly wrong with Amaziah’s heart.  It was not whole.  Such is the lot of many a broken man trying to lead.  If you don’t get that thing fixed, and quick, the fate and pride of Amaziah may find you out.  Go to the master mechanic – Jesus Christ.  He is the only one who can fix a not so whole heart.

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perfection

God has just sent his people into a brand new wilderness.  He has told them two very important instructions: to remember his extreme grace and mercy toward them, and to obey Him.  He has promised that if they would but listen to Him, that he is ready and waiting to make them a kingdom of priests; a holy nation; his very own treasured possession.  Talk about making a deal they can’t refuse!  Of course, they agreed.

The next step in this “process of becoming” as we will call it, it for the prophet to instruct the people on how to prepare themselves for the coming of God Himself.

 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.”

When Moses told the words of the people to the Lord, 10 the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments 11 and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. 13 No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot;[a] whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” 14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. 15 And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.” ~Exodus 19:9-15

God said that these people were to be consecrated.  The way in which God instructs this to be accomplished is that they:

1. Wash their garments.  Matthew Henry notes, “When we are to attend upon God in solemn ordinances it concerns us to sanctify ourselves, and to get ready beforehand.  Wandering thoughts must be gathered in, impure affections abandoned, disquieting passions suppressed, nay, and all cares about secular business, for the present, dismissed and laid by, that our hearts may be engaged to approach unto God…It becomes us to appear in clean clothes when we wait upon great men; so clean hearts are required in our attendance on the great God, who sees them as plainly as men see our clothes.  This is absolutely necessary to our acceptably worshiping God.”

2. Have established limits set.  They must be told with an extreme amount of clarity that these are the lines we do not cross lest we receive the severest of consequences.  No compromises will be made past these lines.  No blind eyes will be turned when any person – even any animal!!!- crosses.  No grace whatsoever will be given if there is injustice done to these unbreakable rules.  The message God was conveying here through the work of his prophet’s line drawing?  YOU DO NOT PRESUME UPON GOD’S MERCY – EVER. You want stoned?  Shot?  If you cross these lines that’s exactly what is going to happen.  Try me.

3.  Do not go near a woman.  This was a matter of purity of mind and heart.  Henry says, “In token of their devoting themselves entirely to religious exercises, upon this occasion, they must abstain even from lawful enjoyments during these three days, and not come at their wives.”

This was how they were to prepare for the coming of God.  These were the things necessary to truly “be ready” to meet him.  Here, before the law was given, God came down on the third day.  In the future, before grace was given, God was raised on the third day.  In the former, God came down to tell us what he expects of us – absolute perfection.  In the latter, God is raised up to tell us what we can expect from Him – unmitigated grace.

You simply cannot get the magnitude of that without falling down to worship Him.  WOW!!!  There are no words to aptly describe what a beautiful God we serve!

Hey world!!!  Look at HIM!!!  How awesome!  How amazing!  How merciful!  How good and great and strong and wise!  That’s MY Dad!!!

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anger

“Who do these guys think they are?  They just want to tell us where to go and what to do.  How do they even know?  Obviously we are lost.  We are in a desert with no food.  We should have known better than to follow them.  We may been slaves but at least we had food before.  Good food, too.  Now, look!  We’re starving!  These incompetent jerks are trying to kill us!”

God’s people were not happy with God’s prophets – Moses and Aaron.  Underneath that, the truth is that God’s people were not happy with God.  They question God’s providence because they are hungry.  God is not threatened by their grumbling, angry faces.  The prophet is not threatened by their grumbling, angry faces.  Instead, to these grumbling, forgetful, ungrateful people, God gives a special blessing and the prophet gives special instructions.  They are, after all, His beloved children.

 In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. 14 And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.” ~Exodus 16:13-15

Food was provided by the immediate hand of God.  So peculiar and extraordinary the provision was, that the people actually called it, “Manna,” meaning “What is it?”

What is it?  What is the meaning of this food-rain?  Is it rain?  Is it dew?  It is food?  It is food!  We have never seen food quite like this.  Daily bread – nothing more, nothing less – is what God was willing to give them.  That is what God is offering today.

Is that good enough for you, kids?  A daily miracle tailor-made just for you is what I am offering.  Is that enough?  Will you stop complaining now?

 And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” 20 But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them.” ~Exodus 16:19-20

No, God.  That is not good enough.  We want extra food.  We don’t trust you.  We don’t trust your prophet.  Let us hide some in our pockets.  Let us store some in our tents.

  I told you, NO! Let no one leave any of it over till the morning!

Little wonder why the prophet was angry!  No matter how great the sign, these people refused to trust; to obey; to rest; to listen.

God just keeps on giving, though.  And the prophet just keeps on speaking.  The prophet just keeps on doing what they would not – listening, trusting, resting, and obeying, God.

The children of God were angry.  The prophet of God was angry.  The former were being unbelievably selfish.  The latter was being amazingly obedient.  God was being God.

Is that OK?  Is that good enough for you, kids?  Can God just be God and people just be people and prophets just be prophets?  Will you stop complaining now?

No, God.  That’s not good enough.  We want extra food.  We don’t trust you.  We don’t trust your prophets.  We don’t trust your providence.  Let us hide some in our pockets.  Let us store some in our tents.

I told you, NO!  I am God and you are not.  Listen to me.  Obey me.  Trust me.  Eat.  Rest.  If you don’t, your ‘extra food’ is going to rot anyway.  Self-sufficient psuedo-control is the most vain thing you can ever attempt.  Let ME be God.  Trust my prophet.  Do not worry.  I have you in my hand.

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sweet

No sooner do God’s people sing their great song of prayer, victory, and celebration to Him than they are led into the wilderness.  These people are on quite a journey – a grand adventure wherein they must learn how to follow the commands of a righteous, heavenly master as opposed to the unjust earthly master they had just been delivered from.  Let’s just call it an adjustment period.

They arrive in the desert and they are, not surprisingly, thirsty.  They only water they do find is bitter and undrinkable…so…because they just saw all these miracles, watched God destroy their fierce enemies, and sang for joy, they decide to pray for good water and they live happily ever after…

Fail.  Unfortunately that is not what God’s people did.  Even after all they had just seen God do for them, they allow their physical thirst to shift their focus from joy and praise to unbelief and complaining.  Even after all they had seen God do, these followers went right back to complaining.

 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” ~Exodus 15:24

I call them “followers” because that is what they were.  Some people are leaders.  Others are followers.  One is not better than the other.  The problem was not that they were followers, it was who they were following.  When they should have been following God and his prophet, they chose to follow each other and their physical and emotional desires  dwelling upon all they could find unfortunate about their situation.  It proved a real lack of character and maturity on their part.

Fortunately, God’s people had a prophet.  Oh, wait, that was the guy they were complaining about.  Drat.  The very man whom God gave to help, to deliver, to lead, and to prophesy to them, they exasperate and burden by their abusive speech against him.  Here, they have a man who was trusting God as he led them.  Yet, they grumble against him.

Moses prayed.  Moses cried out to God on behalf of his very fearful, unbelieving, abusive followers formerly known as the joyful praisers of the Lord who sang the great victory song right along with him just three days before.

God answers Moses’ prayer miraculously.  The text says: “And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.” (Exodus 15:25)

Wait.  God “showed” the prophet a log?  A log.  What?  How does that work?  Does God just point out random objects to people and enlighten them about what he wants done with them?

I am here to tell you…Yes.  He.  Does.  God speaks to people who pray in earnest to him for the sake of others.  God is in no way limited in the means or the methods he may choose to use for the sake of his people.  God can and does use whatever he will when we are willing to listen and obey.

God can use a log.  He can use a murderer like Moses.  He can use a donkey, a tax collector, a doctor, a colt, a hate-filled Pharisee like Saul (Paul), or even, *gasp*, a GIRL if he wants to.  May he, complaining unbeliever?  May he, grumbling follower?  Just wondering.

Here, God gave his prophet practical insight and wisdom on what to do and how to do it.  The prophet obeyed and God provided.  Therefore, what was bitter and unusable became life-giving to all God’s people.  So God used an obedient, praying murderer turned prophet coupled with an inanimate object in order to work a miracle and set an extremely important precedent for his people.

It seems that change is always difficult for people.  It is one thing to follow an earthly master who threatens punishment and sure death in the instance of disobedience.  It is another to be given freedom and liberty to choose right or wrong for the sake of a life-giving, heavenly Master who has just shown you great love, grace, mercy, and favor.  Here, God clears up any misconceptions these chosen ones may have had about their responsibility to him as well as the consequences of their obedience and disobedience, respectively.  God made himself quite clear.  His message was this:

Hey, kids.  I have control over all things.  I have been extremely gracious to you.  I destroyed your enemies because of their sin.  I know it is hard to believe, but I am not going to just overlook your sin.   Listen and obey me and you will be healed and protected.  Ignore and disobey me and you will be destroyed just like your enemies.  You are no better, no different, and in no way above them.  All men are the same to me.  This is life or death.  You choose.

Matthew Henry puts it this way, “Let not the Israelites think, because God had thus highly honored them in the great things he had done for them, and had proclaimed the to all the world his favorites, that therefore he would connive at their sins and let them do as they would.  No, God is no respecter of persons; a rebellious Israelites shall fare no better than a rebellious Egyptian; and so they found, to their cost, before they got to Canaan.”  

Like I said, change is always difficult for people – especially those who have lived in harsh bondage their entire lives; especially those who have lived in positions of preference, position, and pride over their own personal heritage their entire lives. When transitioning from a slave-driving, hard task-master like Pharaoh and sin, as well as from a self-serving attitude of self-importance wherein our task-master is our own sin, to a life-giving, love-bestowing, righteous Father-master like God, we are, like they were, bound to have some misconceptions and make some mistakes.  God knew.  That is why he made himself so clear upon their entry to this wilderness.

The prophet has spoken.  The miracle has proven his prayers as effective as his words were true.  Now, God’s great mercy gives even more grace.

 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water. ~Exodus 15:27

God gave a place of rest and refreshment.  He will do the same for us if we would but trust him.

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stuck

God is leading.  God is leading his people very specifically.  He has delivered them from the the heavy hand of an unjust master and he has taken them into the wilderness.  With a cloud by day and a fire by night, God has been ever so faithful to get them where they need to be.  He further cares for them by speaking very clearly the way in which they must go to his prophet, Moses.  Now, they have come to a place where the wilderness is behind them, rocky treachery is beside them, and the Red Sea is in front of them.  Apart from God’s direct orders on where to go, the cloud, the fire, there would have been little reason to believe this could possibly be the right way.  It was long, it was foreign, and it did not make logical sense.

So, here Moses is instructed to encamp in front of the Red Sea.  God does not just tell Moses where to go.  He tells him why to go there.

For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so. ~Exodus 14:3-4

God is about to take his people through the Red Sea.  He is about to show his power and sovereignty through both mercy and wrath.  As his people walk through the sea, their enemies will be destroyed, both at the very same time by the mighty hand of God.

So God says, “Hey, Moses!  Guess what?  Once I get you guys to a place where you have no where else to go, your enemies are coming for you.  I’m gonna make them as hardened and foolish in their pursuit as they have ever been.  Even more so!  Then, I’m gonna show them who I am.  But don’t worry!  I’m gonna get glory and they’re gonna know I am God once and for all .  Now, go this crazy, unexpected, entrapping way and stay there until they come for you.  Trust me.  This is for you and me and my glory.”

Talk about being used!  These people were about to be the very means by which their numerous, strong, relentless enemies were proven wrong once and for all.  They were the means by which God chose to get his glory.  That is so awesome!!! Still, when you’re up against a wall…well, a sea, with the most powerful army of the known world in pursuit,  it is hard not to freak out in fear.

It really shouldn’t have been that hard to trust God.  I mean, these punks had just watched a deliverer come for them.  They’d just seen ten disastrous plagues strike Egypt.  They just exited their homes freely and had just been handed all the gold and silver of Egypt.  They had been given their own personal cloud.  They’d been given their own personal fire.  They had a prophet telling them exactly where to go and what to do.  They were told beforehand that they would be pursued because God was hardening the hearts of their enemies.  So, seeing that army approach should not have been the least bit surprising.  Nor should it have been disheartening or terrifying in any way.  But, these are sheep and sheep are not that smart.

Still, God did exactly as he said he would do.  How gracious of him to tell Moses first so he might understand the purpose of this very peculiar path they were being led on.  They go and they camp out by the water…and…wait.

In the meantime, just like God said he would, Pharaoh got a hankering to follow.  His reason?  After all those painful plagues and even after losing his very own son, his reason is this:

When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” ~Exodus 14:5

The enemy loses his best slaves when God’s people become free.  All Pharaoh cares about is himself.  Serve me!  Be a slave to me!  Fear me!  Obey me! Sound familiar?  All Satan cares about is our slavery to him.  The enemy loses his best slaves when God’s people become free. Matthew Henry says this: “Pharaoh’s pursuit of Israel, in which, while he gratifies his own malice and revenge, he is furthering the accomplishment of God’s counsels concerning him…thus what may be easily justified is easily condemned, by putting false colors upon it…it vexed him that Israel had their liberty, that he had lost the profit of their labors, and the pleasure of chastising them. It is meat and drink to proud persecutors to trample upon the saints of the Most High, and say to their souls, bow down that we may go over; and therefore it vexes them to have their hands tied. Note, the liberty of God’s people is a heavy grievance to their enemies.”

  Free or not, God’s people feel a lot like sitting ducks.  When Pharaoh’s army approaches they see them coming and the text says, “they feared greatly.”  They cried out to God.  They mock their own deliverance.  They question their personal, prepared his entire life for this very thing prophet, Moses.  They even wish to go back and be slaves.  This is all quite absurd, really.  These dudes had it all!  God could have done nothing more miraculous, nothing more tender, nothing more amazing than that which he was already doing for them.  Yet, they cower in blinding fear and disbelief.  Again, Henry notes, “As the Egyptians were angry with themselves for the best deed they ever did, so the Israelites were angry with God for the greatest kindness that was ever done them; so gross are the absurdities of unbelief.” 

What must Moses have been thinking?  Like how dense are you people, right?  Can you not see God working here?  Do you not see that cloud?  The fire? Hello.  Anybody in there?   But Moses knows just what to say.  Here is peace in the storm of irrational fear, blasphemous anxiety, and ungodly unbelief:

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” ~Exodus 14:13-14

Be silent.  Be silent!!!  Irrational fear, be silent!  Blasphemous anxiety, be silent!   Ungodly unbelief, be silent!  Those things do not come from God.  They come from Satan.  We must command them silent if we expect God’s deliverance.

When God is leading our lives, we will doubtless go to places we never could have imagined and take detours we never would have expected.  All the while, God faithfully gives us all the information we truly need.  Usually it is simply this: This is for my glory.  You are the very means I am using to make myself known.  Be it in mercy or in wrath, I will be known as the One, True God.  So, Go.  Wait.  Trust.  I am fighting for you.  Silence your fear, stand firm, and watch as I walk you through the impossible.

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Image

Jonah was a prophet.  That is, Jonah was a spokesman for God to other people.  Not just anyone got this job.  Prophets were people of great faith, holiness, and good deeds.  So, when God chose to speak to Jonah about calling down his righteous judgement, you’d think his words were in good hands.  But let’s explore what Jonah does with God’s instructions.  Welcome to the book of Jonah.

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish,away from the presence of the Lord. ~Jonah 1:1-3 (more…)

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