Amos: The Nation to be Destroyed and then Restored / Paul: Death through Adam, Life Through Christ

Amos 8:1-9:15

God showed Amos a basket of ripe fruit that indicated that ‘the time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer’ (Amos 8:2). The Israelites would suffer for trampling the needy, doing away with the poor and cheating people with dishonest scales. God doesn’t like greed and injustice.

God would send a new kind of famine – not of lack of food or a thirst for water – but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord (Amos 8:11). Many people in this country choose to live in a faith famine during their spiritually empty, hedonistic lifestyle. Until something terrible happens to them and they experience illness, addiction or the death of someone close to them they won’t search for the word of the Lord.

God is very angry at the Israelites and is going to ruthlessly hunt down all the sinners throughout the kingdom, no matter where they try to hide. God definitely has a hard edge and we don’t want to annoy him. When we are friends with God we find comfort that he is omnipresent and with us to the ends of the earth. Unrepentant sinners are terrified to find out they cannot escape the clutches of God. ‘I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good’ (Amos 9:4). The relationship between God and evil is a difficult topic. Some pastors gloss over this with a childish ‘God is good’ and ‘devil is bad’ simplicity. However, the devil is not allowed to do anything unless God has permitted him to do so. God is in charge of everything that takes place. The devil is constrained in his actions (or we would all be dead already) and so if something bad is happening in your life, it is because God has loosened the restraints on the devil to allow it to take place. Allowing something to take place or neglecting to stop it when you have the power (and God has all the power) is the same as doing it yourself. So we can safely conclude that God allows both good and evil events, even though he wants us all to live in love and peace. When God allows evil to happen it is because he wants a greater good to come out of it.

We can see the horrors of the holocaust in Amos 9:2-4 with the Jews driven into exile and slayed by the sword. Wherever they hid, the Jewish people were hunted down and slayed. It is a terrifying prophecy.

God was going to shake Israel as grain is shaken in a sieve to remove the rubbish. All the complacent sinners would be sifted out to die by the sword.  

Eventually, God would restore Israel and bring his exiled people back – as he demonstrated in 1948. The Israelis rebuilt cities, planted vineyards and ate their own fruit (Amos 9:14).

Shepherds play a key role in the history of Israel. Amos, a shepherd turned prophet, predicted exile followed by restoration. Jeremiah prophesied that the bad shepherds of the Israelites would be punished and that God himself would gather the remnant of his flock from exile. God would place good shepherds over them to tend them until the ultimate good shepherd, Jesus, would be born (Jer.23:5). As soon as baby Jesus had been born, the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem were called by the angels to pay homage to the king of all shepherds.  

No matter how hostile their neighbours are, aggression against Israel will always be pointless as God has replanted his holy people in their own land, that he had given them ‘never again to be uprooted’ (Amos 9:15).

Romans 5:12-21

Sin entered the world through one man, Adam and we all retain part of his damaged nature, a tendency to choose sin. Death came through sin and reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, when the law was given. We were all condemned by the single sin of Adam but we have been redeemed by Jesus, the new Adam.

God’s gift of grace came after millions of sins and brought justification (Romans 5:16). Death was able to spread through the whole human race by Adam’s sin, but Jesus’ death gives us abundant life through God’s endless provision of grace and gift of righteousness. We are no longer guilty and condemned in God’s sight once we are baptized and believe in Jesus. Through God’s priceless gift of grace, he has made us his adopted children, co-heirs with his son and he remains pleased with us.

The people of the world are no longer condemned to death as we were due to Adam’s sin. Our justification by the blood of Jesus has brought eternal life to all people through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  

Proverbs 17:15-24

God detests injustice (Prov.17:15). We should never accept bribes to pervert the course of justice (Prov.17:23).

We won’t prosper if we have perverse hearts and deceitful tongues (Prov.17:20). After becoming baptized, we need to ask the Holy Spirit living within us to sanctify us, to day-by-day gradually drive the perversity out of our hearts.

True friends are exceedingly precious and may be more help in adversity than many members of our family. True friends can be rare and often we can only count our married partner as a true friend.  Men often have acquaintances rather than ‘friends’. They share a hobby or pastime together and this might just be football or drinking. It is very rare to have a friendship like David had with Saul’s son, Jonathan. They were friends that loved at all times (Prov.17:17). David was a man after God’s own heart and so would have avoided picking quarrels with his friend (Prov.17:19).    

Foolish people do not bring joy to their parents and they waste money. They have no desire to get wisdom. We should pray the Holy Spirit each day to receive wisdom and to esteem it more than gold. ‘A discerning man keeps wisdom in view’ (Prov.17:24).

Being cheerful makes us healthy. If our spirit is crushed, an evil spirit of trauma can latch onto us and prolong our grief. Evil spirits want us to destroy ourselves and those around us. We need to attend a Spirit-filled church to praise and worship God and to receive prayer for inner healing.

Jehu kills Joram and Ahaziah / Paul transferred to Caesarea: July 4th 2021

2 Kings 8:16-9:37

Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, became king of Judah. At the same time, Joram was king of Israel in the North. I fully approve of first names beginning with ‘J’, but this period can become a little confusing.

Judah had been doing relatively well in the eyes of the Lord while Jehoshaphat was king (1 Kings 22:43) but Jehoram walked in the way of the evil kings of Israel. He married a daughter of the notorious King Ahab and ‘did evil in the eyes of the Lord’ (2 Kings 8:18). However, God still did not destroy Judah in memory of King David and to preserve it for the birth of Jesus.

The regions of Edom and Libnah rebelled against Jehoram and set up their own kings. Jehoram failed to counteract these rebellions. His country became smaller and smaller.

Jehoram was succeeded by his son, Ahaziah, who teamed up with the king of Israel, Joram, to fight the Arameans, reigned over by Hazael, at Ramoth Gilead.

The prophet Elisha organised a coup. He instructed a fellow prophet to anoint Jehu as king over Israel and to then run away quickly. It was Jehu’s destiny to clean up Israel by destroying the house of Ahab and killing Jezebel. Jehu was a competent soldier even though he drove his chariot ‘like a madman’. He shot Joram, king of Israel, through the heart with an arrow and fatally wounded Ahaziah, king of Judah, in his chariot. Joram had repeatedly asked Jehu through messengers, if he had come in peace. There could be no peace until the idol-worship instigated by Ahab and Jezebel had been purged from the land (2 Kings 9:22).

Jehu then went to Jezreel to confront the queen of evil, Jezebel. She met an unfortunate end. She was thrown down from a window by her eunuchs, trampled by horses and eaten by dogs. It had been prophesied that she wouldn’t be buried (2 Kings 9:37).

Jehu had a dynamic, if somewhat brutal, start to his reign. Things looked more promising for Israel’s future if he managed to keep purging the evil from the country.

Acts 23:12-35

There was now a major conspiracy to kill Paul. More than forty Jews vowed not to eat or drink until they had ambushed and murdered him. Paul’s nephew informed both Paul and the Roman commander about this plot.

Paul appeared to have a lot of freedom in jail. He could receive visitors and call on the centurions to run errands for him. God was still protecting Paul. Prison was the safest place for him while his life was so threatened. Jesus wanted Paul to testify in Rome and was influencing people to safely transport him there.

The commander transferred Paul to Caesarea guarded by four hundred and seventy Roman soldiers. Paul was held in Herod’s palace by Governor Felix, until his accusers arrived.

Psalm 80:1-7

Jesus restored us in God’s eyes when he died on the cross (Ps.80:7).

He is our Good Shepherd, who leads us as his flock.

We were at war with God due to our sins and our future was death. Jesus made peace with God on our behalf, through the shedding of his perfect blood and opened the way to eternal life, where God’s face will shine upon us forever (Ps.80:3).

We were born again through the waters of our baptism to be adopted children of God.

Hallelujah. Praise the Lord.

Image: Rijksmuseum, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Boaz Marries Ruth / Jesus is ‘The Good Shepherd’: May 17th 2021

Ruth 3:1-4:22

Naomi advised her daughter-in-law, Ruth, that Boaz would be a suitable husband. He was from the same clan as Naomi’s deceased husband. Ruth was told to find out where he lay down to go to sleep – at the far end of his grain pile – uncover his feet and lie down there (v.4).

Ruth carried out these instructions and Boaz was delighted to find this young woman at his feet. She had showed her kindness to him by not chasing after young men. Boaz was very keen in the morning to sort everything out legally. He was a model of integrity and was obliged to ask another man, who was a closer relative to Naomi than him (a kinsman-redeemer), if he wanted to exercise his inherited rights and marry her instead.

Boaz formally asked the kinsmen-redeemer if he would buy Naomi’s land from her but reminded him that if he did he would also have to marry the elderly Naomi. The man refused and so Boaz was able to buy the land and acquire Ruth, the Moabitess, as his wife.

The elders blessed Boaz and prayed that the Lord would ‘make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel’ (v.11).

Boaz and Ruth had a son, Obed (meaning ‘Servant of God’), and Naomi cared for him. Even though Ruth had been a foreigner before marrying Boaz she now entered into the most important genealogy in the history of the world. Her son was the father of Jesse, who would be the father of King David.

Jesus’ father, Joseph, came from the line of David. Jesus would be born in Bethlehem in accordance with prophecy. It is wonderful that Ruth and Boaz, both shining lights of kindness, loyalty and integrity are ancestors of Saint Joseph, the kinsman / redeemer of Mary and Jesus; the Holy Family.

John 9:35-10:21

The blind man, who Jesus had healed, believed in Jesus and worshipped him.

Jesus came into the world ‘so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind’ (v.39). The self-righteous religious Pharisees would not acknowledge that they were spiritually blind. Even when the Son of God carried out healing miracles in their own town, they refused to believe and thus their guilt remained.

Jesus came that we ‘may have life, and have it to the full’ (v.10).

Jesus came to defend us from the thieving wolf – the devil. He did not run away from the devil, he engaged in spiritual combat using the word of God as a double-edged sword. We can only enter into the kingdom of God through our faith in Jesus.

Jesus is the ‘Good Shepherd’ and laid down his life for us. He knows us and we know him and the sound of his voice. Jesus wanted the Church to be one – not split into different factions – so ‘there shall be one flock and one shepherd’ (v.16). Jesus came to us Gentiles – sheep from a different sheep pen – to round us up and lead us to evergreen pasture.

No-one took Jesus’ life from him. He could have called for a legion of mighty angels to prevent him from being captured. Jesus volunteered to die as he knew that was his Father’s plan for him. Jesus knew at this stage that he also had been given authority from God to be resurrected.

Good people produce good fruit. Jesus proved by his wonderful healing miracles that he came from God.

Psalm 62:1-12

We will never be at rest until our soul finds rest in God. He will be our mighty rock, our fortress and our salvation (v.2) forever. We will never be shaken when we have full faith in God. Our hope comes from him (v.5).

God will prosper us and give us what we need but we need to love him alone and not become obsessed with his financial blessings and our bank accounts.

Our bodies will crumble to dust, all we have is our eternal spirit. We are all just a breath of God, so insubstantial it cannot be weighed on a scale but it is the very essence of our immortal soul.

Our God is strong and loving. We will be rewarded for what we have done.

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