Monthly Archives: August 2018

Zechariah 4-6; Priest and King

What does it mean when God, through the prophet, tells us the Branch will be both priest and king? That’s not how it worked back in Zechariah’s day. Got me to thinking…

A priest was responsible for the spiritual care of the people. The priest was the one who offered sacrifices day after day for the sins of the people. He wasn’t a soldier, or a ruler. He stayed pretty close to the Temple, and his concerns were for the relationship the people had with God.

A king, on the other hand, ruled the people. A king made the laws, and had an army around him to uphold those laws. The king was feared, sometimes loved, respected, and obeyed. The king was responsible for the physical welfare of the people.

Now Zechariah is told to take a crown of gold and silver, and place it on the head of the high priest as a picture of what was to come. There is a Branch coming who will not be a priest OR a king, but a priest AND king.

This One, Zechariah tells us, will branch out to build the Temple. This Branch will sit on His throne and rule in majesty and glory – a Priest on the throne. And there will be harmony between the two.

Jesus is that Branch, that Priest on the throne! This Priest/King not only made the laws, He made the ultimate sacrifice for those of us who break those laws. HE became that sacrifice once and for all.

This Priest/King invites His children into the throne room where we can enjoy His Presence, eat at His table, be clothed in His righteousness. This King, who rules with an iron fist, also loves and forgives us when we bow before Him.

I don’t need to go to a priest for one thing, and to a king for something else. It made me think of I Peter 1:3:

His divine power (King) has given us everything required for life (King) and godliness (Priest) through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory (King) and goodness. (Priest).  (words in parentheses mine)

Jesus is everything I need. I can trust Him with my physical health, my day to day needs, and I can trust Him with my soul, my eternity. Do you know Him?

Zechariah 1-3; Responding To God’s Word

I read Zechariah several times today before dragging out the commentaries of people who believe they know the meaning of the visions recorded here. But, honestly, I get weary when they keep saying, “This verse refers to historical facts, this one refers to Jesus, but this one has to do with our future.” So I prayed as always, “God, what do You want me to know about You today? What do You want to say to me about my walk with You?”

Wow. I think God loves answering that prayer. So I’m only going to share what He has laid on my heart in the first three chapters today. There is so much, I didn’t want to try to tackle the whole book in one post. You may find yourself wanting to debate the details of my interpretation if they don’t align with yours. But I’m just going to let you in on my personal encounter with God today. You don’t have to quote me.

This is what God said to me about Himself: He is in all the world, as symbolized by the horses in chapter 1. Nothing happens anywhere on earth that God doesn’t know, nowhere that He isn’t present. That gives me great comfort.

But God also says, He doesn’t much like what He sees out there all the time. There are forces that would destroy God’s people, as I see in the four horns. But take heart, dear one! God has worker bees among us who are His arms and legs in this battle. And we win! That gives me confidence.

I love that the Jerusalem in Zechariah’s vision has no walls. In fact, God IS the walls of protection surrounding His church. And He IS the glory inside the church. Our protector, our joy and hope, the One True God right here with us and in us!

“For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord. (2:10b)

And when He came in the person of Jesus, people from many nations joined the believing Jews to become God’s people. We are God’s inheritance, the apple of His eye. That makes me love Him so much!

I love how Zechariah’s vision pictures Jesus’ work on the cross when He removed “the sin of this land in a single day.” Before He died that day, Jesus said, “IT IS FINISHED.”

Here’s Joshua, a priest guilty of sin, wearing filthy rags, standing before God. Does God turn him away like Satan expects? NO! God removes the filth, and clothes Joshua in rich garments. “If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements,… I will give you a place among these standing here.” (3:7b)

That’s me! I can stand before God absolutely pure – because He has clothed me with His own purity. Jesus paid the price for my sin, God forgives me. And I am washed whiter than snow through my Savior’s precious blood. That makes me want to bow before Him and worship Him like He deserves.

So today, I feel like God is reminding me He’s got this. Yes, there is a battle going on. Yes, it may seem evil is winning. But God wants me to know He is my protector, my Savior, and I am His beloved, the apple of His eye. What is my response? It makes me want to get out there and serve Him.

Haggai; Caring For The Church

I’ve shared that our pastor obeyed God’s call to minister at another church, leaving us pastor-less for the time being. We certainly miss him. But what an exciting time to be a part of this fellowship!

I thought about us, and other churches like us with pastor search committees, as I read what God had to say through Haggai. The Jews had neglected the Temple, they let it fall into ruin. Yet their own homes were state-of-the-art. Maybe an exaggeration, but God said:

Because of my house, which remains in ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. (1:9)

God was doling out discipline for their lack of care for His house. Now I’m not suggesting our church is in ruin because Pastor Whit is no longer here. Quite the opposite is true. In fact, the three men who have filled the pulpit since Pastor left have all had a similar theme – Don’t stop!

We’ve been encouraged not to think of this season as “limbo.” We’ve been challenged to step up our service and giving instead of sitting back and waiting until we call a preacher. Why? Because this isn’t Pastor Whit’s church. Never has been. Never will be. This is God’s church here on this island. And WE are charged with it’s upkeep and growth.

We had our quarterly business meeting last Sunday evening. The various committees gave reports, and we were caught up on where we are in the pastor search process. My heart was blessed as the reports were given, how excited people are about ministry opportunities in and through our church, how much prayer is being given for each area of service, and how much we are seeking God’s will for our future. I don’t see this church fellowship going into ruin any time soon!

But the potential is there. Not just for us, but for any church looking to call a Shepherd. Not just for us, but any church fellowship in transition.

For some people, it might be easy to step back a bit during these times, to sleep in on Sundays rather than taking a chance on the potluck preacher who is speaking this week until we call an interim. It might be tempting to cut back on giving since we’re not paying a preacher right now. (Who couldn’t use a few extra bucks each month?) It might seem we are within our rights to turn down ministry opportunities until we see where this thing is going.

But God needs us to keep his house in good repair – not because of a pastor – but because it’s GOD’s. Haggai reminds us there are consequences to pay for neglecting God’s house. I know we can apply this to our church fellowships as well.

You most likely have a pastor at your church. Are you letting him be the sole carer of God’s house? Are there things you should be doing to make your fellowship vital, fruit-bearing, and beautiful? Many times things start falling apart slowly, almost imperceptibly. We get used to passing by that door hanging off its hinges. We get used to not seeing the Smiths or Joneses in Sunday School, before we forget they were even there. Giving is down, but we don’t even realize the pastor’s salary has been cut, or that there is no money to repair the roof.

Dear one, we have the honor of caring for God’s house, for caring for His Church, for caring for his children. Let’s determine to keep His house in full repair, running on all cylinders, and being a bright light in our communities for Jesus’ sake.

With or without a pastor in the pulpit.

 

Zephaniah; Complacent

I don’t think we fully understand the length to which God goes to address sin in our individual lives, and in the world. This God, who is not willing that anyone die without Him, who went to the cross so no one has to, is actively working in all our lives to get our attention, to draw us to Himself, to hear us confess our sin so He can shower us with His amazing grace. But some of us are so stubborn.

Chapter 3 talks about the lack of morality, how brazen people can be in their depravity. Verses 6-7 tells us God disciplines sin with the intent people will recognize their need of Him and repent, so that He can remove His hand of judgment, and bless them. “But they were still eager to act corruptly in all they did.” (Emphasis mine)

Now, before we get too comfortable thinking, “I’m not committing any brazen acts of disobedience, or living a sinful lifestyle,” let’s back up to Chapter 1:12. God says He will punish complacency, those who think, “God won’t do anything either good or bad, so I’ll just sit here in the comfort of my pew.”

Look at 2:15.

This is the carefree city that lived in safety. She said to herself, “I am, and there is none besides me.” What a ruin she has become, a lair for wild beasts! All who pass by her scoff and shake their fists.”

Does that sound like 21st Century USA? I think it does. But the bigger question is: does that sound like any of us? Are we banking on that day when we accepted Jesus as our Savior, thinking we’ve got it made-in-the-shade because well, once saved always saved. But we don’t make an attempt to “grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus,” and we don’t live lives that look different from the world, and we certainly don’t share Jesus with anyone else for whatever reason. Oh, we go to church most of the time. And we even keep our Bible on the table next to our beds. We pray before we eat when we remember to. And we recognized how blessed we are to live where we live, to be able to pay our bills, and see the doctor only at our yearly exam. Life is good. And we’re a bit smug about it all. Isn’t that the definition of “complacency?”

Dear one, Zephaniah tells us God punishes “complacency.” If you think you can be described as “complacent,” ask God to forgive you. It is a sin. Then get out there and get busy making disciples.

I am reminded, through Zephaniah, that God does and will continue to punish sin (including complacency), until we repent or He comes again. And His discipline will only continue to hurt more and more as long as people continue to act corruptly. I’m also reminded God WANTS to stop the hand of judgment, and He will, if we turn to Him.

“But they were still eager to act (complacently) in all they did.” (paraphrase mine)

May no one ever have a reason to call you or me complacent. May we be busy doing the will of God, growing in our relationship with Him by studying His Word and praying. May we be actively leading people to their Savior, so that God can forgive and bless us, our land, and the world for Jesus’ sake and for His glory.

 

Habakkuk; Wait For It…

The prophet understands that God must punish sin. “But come on, God. How long? How long are You going to let me cry out, and You not answer? How long are you going to make me look at the evil in this world, the unfair treatment of Your people while the wicked go on their merry way, and prosper?”

God answers Habakkuk: “Wait for it! You’re not even going to believe what I’m going to do.”

Then Habakkuk replies, “Ok. If You say so. I’ll stand my watch.”

God continues to talk to the prophet and gives him a glimpse at what is ahead for the wicked. There is a series of “Woe to’s” that reaffirm that God’s got this. In God’s timing, evil will be addressed, severely addressed. No one is getting away with any wrong-doing. So Habakkuk takes God at His word. (which probably is a good idea for all of us)

But Habakkuk asks God for one thing: “Lord, while you are allowing your people to go through this storm – have mercy.” (3:2) And then this:

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. (3:17-19a)

We should not be surprised when we are faced with trials. We deserve much worse than anything we’ve had to face, or will face in this lifetime. We can let those hard situations break us, cause us to turn from God and make us bitter. Or we can take God at His word… Wait for it.

Wait for Him.

I imagine many of you can attest to times when God gave you supernatural strength to face a tough thing with confidence and joy. I imagine you can share times when God lifted you above the situation and gave You peace in the storm, when He gave you the “feet of a deer” to keep you moving through the valley of the shadow of death.

God uses difficult times to refine His children, to drive us to our knees so that we depend only on Him and find He is all we need. God uses difficult times to discipline His children, to punish the sin of the wicked, to reveal Himself through our examples.

May God show us mercy by being our Comfort and Strength when life seems unbearable. And may we, like Habakkuk, rejoice in the Lord, in God our Savior.

Then, wait for it. You’re not even going to believe what He has in store.

 

 

Nahum; Jealous and Patient

We read about Jonah a few days ago; how he went into Nineveh, a city condemned to destruction because of their sin, and told them the truth about God. 120,000 people confessed their sin, and God forgave them. The city was spared.

But now it’s about 100 years later, and God is warning them once again, this time through Nahum, that their sin-debt has come due. They will be destroyed because they were back to their old sinful ways.

My parents were born in the 1920’s. My sisters and I were born in the ’50s. My nieces and nephews were born in the ’80s, and their children have been born in the 21st Century. We are six years from the 100th anniversary of my parents’ births. It puts the number “100” into perspective.

It took Nineveh only the span between a man and his great-grandchildren to go from repenting of sin, to living in sin once again to the point God had had enough.

Nahum tells us God is a jealous God, and I know that offends some people who define jealously as a middle-school girl whose BFF has a boyfriend or something. God is NOT envious.

But God demands our total devotion, and will jealously protect His throne. He will not tolerate worship of any other god, or thing, or desire, or person.

Nahum tells us God is a jealous God, but in the next verse he tells us this same God is slow to anger and great in power. Nahum tells us these people were depending on their wealth, power, position, on intellect – on themselves – when they should have been depending on God alone. They might have acknowledged God, but their devotion was divided. And God will not accept that. Not even a little.

Are you single-minded in your worship of God? Or is God just one of the several things you are devoted to? God does not accept an “and.” He demands an “only.”

I’d like you to consider the level of commitment to God that you see in your own “100.” Are you singularly devoted to God? Do your children share the same devotion? How about your grandchildren? We may be one generation from experiencing what God is telling Nineveh through Nahum, unless we heed Jonah’s warning, and repent.

Because, as true as it is that God is a jealous and avenging God, that He will not let the guilty go unpunished, He is still slow to anger. He still forgives sin. And He still is not willing that anyone should die without Him.

Yes, God is a jealous God in that He will not accept partial worship of Him. But He is also patient, long-suffering, gentle, and kind. In fact, He went ahead and paid the awful penalty for our sin Himself, and pours out His grace on all who believe.

God demands our exclusive worship. And He deserves it.

 

Micah; Jesus Is King

Chapter five contains a beautiful prophecy about the coming Messiah. I’m sure many of us are familiar with the words God inspired Micah to write. But, actually, I see Jesus and the Church throughout this precious book, not just in chapter five.

Jesus, our Rock, our Foundation, our Shepherd, the One the Old Testament prophets told us about, our eternal King. God, who is not willing that any should perish, did what the blood of thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of oil could not do when Jesus died once and for all. We Gentiles joined the remnant of Israel to form the Church, the eternal spiritual kingdom of God.

There is war in this spiritual kingdom. There are severe consequences for sin. But we win because Jesus is the Victor!

Yes, our hearts should be broken over present sin in the world and the judgment that is coming. God is serious about sin in the world, in the nation, and in our individual hearts.

But as for me I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the Lord’s wrath, until he pleads my case and establishes my right, He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness. (7:7-9)

And so will you, if you know Him, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus the Christ.