Saturday, April 27, 2013

Lord of All Nations (Amos)

Due to extenuating circumstances there will be no audio commentary this week.  For your convenience I have posted the audio script.

Lord of All Nations (Amos)

Memory text: Amos 3:8 A lion has roared!  Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy?

Like many of the prophets, Amos was called out by God from wherever he was to prophecy.  Per the Lord, Amos presents several indictments to kingdoms of his day.  Amos mentions God’s indictment against that respective kingdom and what God will do to “punish” that Kingdom.  Interestingly, Judah and Israel are included in that list.  In Amos 1, 2 some of the crimes listed are: Human trafficking, perpetual anger, killing pregnant women, dishonoring a treaty, disrespect of the dead, taking bribes, dishonesty, despising the law of the LORD, not keeping His commandments and, lying. 

These indictments come from God.  God was not pleased with these people’s inhumane behavior.  And, if He was not pleased it is because they lacked faith (Hebrews 11: 6).  So, whatever they did was sin (Romans 14: 23).  So, this meant that these people had stop hearing God’s Word; they turned away from God (Romans 10: 17). 

Why was Israel included? What were they doing?  Here is a list of Isreal’s wrong doings:

Amo 2:6 Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes;
Amo 2:7 That pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the meek: and a man and his father will go in unto the same maid, to profane my holy name:
Amo 2:8 And they lay themselves down upon clothes laid to pledge by every altar, and they drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god.
Amo 2:12 But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not.
Amo 3:10 For they know not to do right, saith the LORD, who store up violence and robbery in their palaces.
Amo 4:1 Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink.

To this we add what is said in verse 9 through 11:

Amo 4:9 I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the palmerworm devoured them: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.
Amo 4:10 I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.
Amo 4:11 I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.

The Lord had tried everything to get Israel’s attention, but they had not heeded God’s warnings.  Because, they had not turn back to the Lord, He would bring the greatest judgment on Israel, because Israel had the greatest privilege of all nations.  They had the greatest knowledge of God, and yet acted as if God did not even exist.  So, God expected much more of Israel.  Jesus says in Luke 12:47-48:

Luke 12:47 And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
Luke 12:48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.

Now this was not retributive justice.  God always has an agenda when He rebukes, motivated by love.  He says in Revelation 3: 19,

Revelation 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Ellen White states in this subject,

“God speaks to his people in blessings bestowed; and when these are not appreciated, he speaks to them in blessings removed, that they may be led to see their sins, and return to Him with all the heart.” PP 470.
Now, let’s be very clear on this: Whether it’s blessings given or removed, whether it’s discipline given or protection from Satan’s decided attacks on us, everything God does is a revelation of His love for humanity.  Even “God’s wrath” of letting them go at the time of the final judgment is a revelation of God’s love. All that God does reveals love.

Does this apply to us? Are there any parallels between the Israel of Amos’ day, and present day SDA’s?  What privileges do we have in common?  Education, higher socio-economic status, a unique understanding of scripture, waiting on a messiah [1st vs 2nd advent], knowledge of health laws.

Are SDA’s honest in all of their financial dealings? Do we care for our poor? Have we robbed God? Have we grown fat and lazy, like Sodom? 

Like Judah and Israel of old, we might be glad as we hear the voice of Amos proclaiming God’s justice against the wickedness and oppression of the world. But, what if our modern Amos starts calling out wickedness and oppression in the Seventh Day Adventist Church?  We can also tremble as we read the list of besetting sins in chapters 2 and 3 that we would by parallel apply to ourselves as spiritual Israel today: despising the law and breaking the commandments, following lies about God and His will, practicing greed and avarice, perverting the way of the humble, winking at sexual immorality, closing our ears to the prophet, and promoting unhealthy lifestyles.  Yet, as the called out remnant at the end of time, we are to minister to the spiritual and physical needs of all humanity in spite of ourselves.

The Bible says we are Loadicea.  The passage where this is mentioned has an indictment,

Rev 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
Rev 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Rev 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

Clearly we cannot accomplish the Lord’s work for the world in this time without the cleansing, enduring love coming from heart appreciation of the gospel. When we can let the “light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” shine in and through us, then our light can “break forth as the morning,” bringing a healing righteousness to ourselves and the world. We desperately need what the Laodicean Messenger prescribes!
Revelation 3:18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

This says in essence, “return to me.”  It is a call to repentance.  Will we heed?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Holy and Just God

Due to extenuating circumstances there will be no audio overview this week.  Sorry, for any inconvenience.  Below is the audio script.   

A Holy and Just God

What comes to mind when you hear the lesson title for this week?  Perhaps we should take a closer look at each attribute.  Let us start with holiness. 

In a recent program panelists were asked to define holiness.  None had a concrete definition, but all agreed that Holiness is all that God is.  While most would understand it is still a vague definition.  (Implied, however, is that Holiness is everything we are not.). 

What is God?  God is love (agape).  What is Love?  Also hard to define, but Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 13,

1 Corinthians 13
13:4 Agape suffereth long, [and] is kind; Agape envieth not; Agape vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 
13:5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 
13:6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 
13:7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 
13:8 Agape never faileth…

This means that 1st Corinthians 13 also describes holiness.  The issue is that we typically think of 1 Corinthians 13 in terms of performance.  But, what God does is a reflection of who He is.  There is no inconsistency between God’s character and His performance.  There seems to be another dimension: God’s character is evident when you see Him.  God’s character shines through His body.  In other words, if you see God, you see His character.  God does not have to act for you to know He is Love.  His mere presence shows that.  What you see God you see 1 Corinthians 13 in person.  This is Holiness.

Let’s look at justice.  Is Biblical justice equal to the justice of the world?  Justice in any system is based on the laws or rules of that system.  There are two ways to conceive of God’s law – the design protocols life is built upon – natural law, and an imposed Roman type law construct.  If one views God’s law as a Roman imposed law then in that model justice requires imposition of punishment by the ruling authority.

If one views God’s law as the protocol upon which he built life to operate then justice requires the Designer to heal and fix what is broken. Let us look at some texts and see what system is biblical justice.

·         “Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy.” (Ps 82:3)
·         “Wash yourselves clean. Stop all this evil that I see you doing. Yes, stop doing evil and learn to do right. See that justice is done---help those who are oppressed, give orphans their rights, and defend widows.” (Is 1:16-17 – GN)
·         “The LORD is waiting to be kind to you. He rises to have compassion on you. The LORD is a God of justice.” (Is 30:18 – GW)
·         “This is what the LORD says to the dynasty of David: ‘Give justice each morning to the people you judge! Help those who have been robbed; rescue them from their oppressors.’” (Jer 21:12 – NLT)

We can see that God’s justice, according to Scripture is, delivering the oppressed not punishing the oppressor.

How does God show holiness and justice in the book of Joel?  Joel was called to announce impending doom and destruction.  Why would God allow such destruction?  How can He be a God of love and allow such disasters to be inflicted on Israel?   God loved Israel.  God chastens whom He loves (Revelation 3: 19).  God used these disasters as chastening.  The idea was to bring Israel to repentance.  So, that Israel realized their need for dependence on God. 

There is no mention on whether the people’s repentance would stop the destruction, but there was a guarantee, “…whoever calls in the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Joel 2: 32).  Even if the Lord would not stop the trial, He would help those who called on His name to go through the trial.  In this disaster, instead of having the people rend their garments, the prophet Joel says that the people should rend their hearts and make them open to God’s grace and compassion. 

The message in this book is especially important to us because, just like in the days of Joel, the impending events of these final days will not be prevented, they will be disastrous and, only those who “call in the name of the Lord will be saved.”  Ellen White invites us to reflect on this, “We must realize our true condition, or we shall not feel our need of Christ’s help.  We must understand our danger, or we shall not flee to the refuge.  We must feel the pain of our wounds, or we should not desire healing” (Christ’s object Lessons, p. 158). The question is will we heed God’s calling?  I pray that we do!