The Opportunity We’ve All Wanted to Have

Habakkuk

Hab2

Thursday, April 20

There are some things that are guaranteed to happen in life: taxes, death, and suffering and evil. Haven’t you ever wanted to just have the opportunity to talk to God face to face? To have a conversation with him as we do with other humans? Each minor prophet has a characteristic about it that makes it unique from among the others. Habakkuk’s is this: he is the only prophet that dialogues back and forth to God as we do with each other, and the topic they discuss is suffering and evil. Specifically, how can God being just allow evil and suffering to continue?

The problem of evil is something all humans question, especially in light of God. Habakkuk and his context is no different. In the first four verses of chapter one, Habakkuk laments over the injustice that he witnesses, the wicked prospering over the righteous ones and the seemingly indifference that God exhibits in the present situation. Yet behold, God says in verse five, he will lead a foreign nation to punish the wickedness of his people in Judah. A common thread among all the prophets in the Bible: major, minor, Moses, John the Baptist, and others is that God ensures the prophet that justice is coming. Evil and wickedness will not triumph. Injustice and corruption will not be victorious. When we look back in the Old Testament we see again and again God takes action and rectifies the hopeless situation. But it’s important to remember that God does not act on our time, but on his.

Take for example, the enslavement of his people in Egypt. From the time they became slaves to when they were liberated was over four hundred years. How many Israelites cried out to their God during that time longing for liberation and freedom? Many. How many actually saw it come to fruition? Few. Yet God acted, and gave the Egyptians time to repent and let his people go. They refused, and God took his people out of slavery with a mighty hand.

The evil and suffering we witness God is not ignorant of. He is giving people time and opportunity to repent and reconcile with him through Jesus. But trust me, no, trust Exodus 34.6-7, that evil and injustice will not reign forever. He assured Habakkuk of this and he assures you and me today:

“Yahweh, Yahweh God is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth,

who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives

iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet he will by no means

leave the guilty unpunished.”

Exodus 34.6-7

 

-Jacob Rohrer

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Can Love and Wrath be Reconciled?

Nahum

Nahum_1-7

Wednesday, April 19

The prophet Nahum is incredibly descriptive in his writing concerning the imminent doom of Nineveh. When reading, I thought of war movies like, 300, the Patriot, Saving Private Ryan and others, because of the picture Nahum paints with his words. However, the question arises at one time or another for most people. How can God be a good loving God and yet declare wrath on nations and individuals? It seems mutually exclusive and inconsistent. Maybe you have given thought to this at times?

Currently while I am interning in Texas I have a side job. Well, really a side job that’s full time. I work at the elementary school in town and I work with first through third graders. The kids I work with have behavioral, learning, and psychological diagnoses. I love my kids. But at times they conduct themselves in ways that are totally unacceptable. Because I love them and want the best for them I have to discipline them. I want the best for their lives and that will be hindered greatly if their outbursts go on unchecked. Now I give them plenty of chances to turn things around and correct their behavior before I have to bring the hammer of correction down. And when I do it’s not uncommon to hear “you’re mean Mr. Rohrer!” “I don’t like you!” and even “I can’t wait for you to move back to Ohio!”.

On a much grander scale, God, because he loves must punish and be wrathful. Just as if parents don’t care about their children they won’t disciple them, if God didn’t enact judgement he wouldn’t be caring. And the worst thing is not wrath, but indifference. I read someone that said, if God didn’t judge and enact wrath then peace would never be realized on earth. You see, if God didn’t hold evil accountable, then who else will enact justice? It’ll be up to you and me. But because I know God holds all things accountable, I can endure persecution and wrongdoing knowing one day God will make all right, because he loves. In the meantime, I am to live out the kingdom peace we are called to.

A loving God and a wrathful vengeful God are not incompatible. They go hand in hand and the author of Nahum understood this:

            “A jealous and avenging God is Yahweh

                        Yahweh is avenging and wrathful.

                        Yahweh takes vengeance on his adversaries

                        And reserves wrath for his enemies.

                        Yahweh is slow to anger and great in power

                        And Yahweh will by no means leave the guilty unpunished…

                        Yahweh is good”. (Nahum 1.2-3, 7a)

-Jacob Rohrer

(Photo Credit: https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Nahum-1-7/)

It’s Always Been About the Condition of the Heart

Micah 5-7

micah-6_8

Tuesday, April 18

The latter half of Micah includes passages about judgement, God’s frustration with the people of Israel, and a prophetic utterance about the future king of Israel coming from a tiny blip-of-a-town, Bethlehem. Among these three chapters, we will look at Micah 6.6-8. Despite a common misconception that the Old Testament is concerned solely about external obedience to Torah (the Jewish law) and that it says nothing about the heart issue, our passage speaks directly about the heart.

Starting in verse six Micah asks a rhetorical question, ‘What should I bring to God”? Should it be burnt offerings? How about yearling calves? What about a thousand rams! The answer is none of these. We can find a similar message in Hosea 6.6. Micah tells the Israelites plainly “He [God] has told you, O man, what is good” (Micah 6.8). What is good in the sight of God are not sacrifices and mere external obedience but exacting justice, loving kindness, and walking or obeying God humbly, all of which are impossible to do without a transformation of the heart. The remedy to the corrupted leadership in Israel we looked at yesterday is found in here in verse eight. Israelites, return to God with all your heart-fully devoted to him, upholding justice, loving kindness, and obeying God, this is good in the sight of Yahweh!

You and I can read this passage and think ‘silly Israelites of course God doesn’t want your sacrifices, he wants your heart’! However, just because we’re removed from the historical context, doesn’t mean we don’t struggle with the same problems. For example, some of you reading this may keep up with the ‘look’ of a Christian, yet have let your heart linger far from him. You attend church, youth group, and camps. You instagram your Bible readings and caption verses on your selfies. These are not wrong or bad, however, if this is the extent of your Christian faith, God is longing for something much deeper and significant. He wants your heart. Have you surrendered in your heart completely to the will of God and what he desires for you? In the words of Micah, do you uphold justice? Do you love kindness and see people as God sees them? And lastly, do you humbly obey and walk with God? We all can return to God in some area of our lives and give our heart back to him.

-Jacob Rohrer

(photo credit: http://www.godswordimages.com/wallpaper/gentleness/micah-6-8/)

The Responsibility of Godly Leadership

Micah 1-4

micah 1

Monday, April 17

            Micah, in line with his fellow minor and major prophets, has been given a message of judgment and warning. Micah is prophesying to the northern tribe of Israel. After king Solomon died, his son Rehoboam took over the nation of Israel but due to his poor leadership the nation split into two tribes. The northern tribe-Israel, and southern tribe-Judah. Micah’s audience is Israel-the northern tribe in the eighth century BCE.

Chapter three sheds light onto why judgment and wrath will come upon Israel if she does not change her ways. The rulers and leaders of Israel have led in a manner that is not in line with God and his standards and statutes. Instead of loving justice and hating evil, the present leadership have been accused of “hating good and loving evil” (Mic. 3.2). God had placed certain officers to lead his people, and the people in these positions were failing. Chapter three continues to say that leaders pronounced a judgment not based on truth but on bribery, the prophets would prophesy for money and speak falsely concerning God. Corruption was through the whole leadership and the victims of the corruption were the common people themselves.

In our world it’s not uncommon to see leaders fail and look out for their own interests before the interests of the people they’re leading. If you and I can be outraged with failed leadership how much more is God displeased and upset with his leadership when it fails? Whether we serve in an official leadership position at a church or Christian organization, or you’re a student leader at your school or church, you are a leader to someone. The best way to lead is to do it God’s way: pursue his heart and truth, practice servant leadership, stand up for justice, obey, and don’t be a coward with God’s truth. Leadership is something God gives and so it’s something he can take away if those whom he has called are not being faithful with it. We can see from Micah that God takes seriously a failure to obey God when leading. Are you being faithful with a leadership position God has placed you in?

-Jacob Rohrer

 

Don’t Be That Guy

Obadiah and Jonah

obadiah

Sunday, April 16

Don’t worry, God hasn’t forgotten.

Obadiah is the shortest book among the minor prophets, yet it’s message is anything but minor or insignificant. To grasp the content of Obadiah we have to go through a brief history lesson. History was my favorite academic subject in school, so other history nerds, you’ll enjoy this. Also, understanding the historical context of the books of the Bible is one tool used in hermeneutics (the study of how to interpret biblical texts). In other words, to be responsible interpreters of the Bible we should always attempt to reconstruct the historical context of the passage.

Though Jeremiah attempted to convince the people of Judah to surrender to the invasion of Babylon of 586/587 BCE, they refused. The context and content of Obadiah is situated in the aftermath of the destruction and exile brought on by Babylon. Verse 1 tells us that God gave Obadiah a vision concerning the nation of Edom. Edom is the cousin nation to the people of Israel. The patriarch of Edom is Esau and Jacob is one of the patriarchs of Israel. From the time of Jacob and Esau being in the womb to long after their deaths, they and their people have had rocky interactions, including the one described in Obadiah. Verses 2-9 describe judgement and wrath awaiting the nation of Edom, however we’re not told why until verse 10.

The first line of verse 10 says “Because of violence to your brother Jacob…”. Then from verse 11-14 the phrase “on the day/in the day” shows up nine times! When Babylon ransacked Judah, the Edomites, the cousin nation of Israel, just stood on the sidelines watching and did nothing. God is telling the Edomites they will be judged for what they didn’t do “on that day!” They didn’t come to the aid of the Israelites and instead enjoyed and gloated over their doom. Obadiah is writing to those who have been left behind to encourage them and remind them that God has not forgotten the wrong done to them.

There are two lessons we can take from Obadiah. First, just as God had not forgotten the wrong done to his covenant people Israel, likewise God doesn’t forget the wrong done to you. We serve a God who takes action in the present. And even if a wrong is not vindicated in this present evil age it will certainly be reversed at the return of King Jesus. Second, we see that God equates ignoring justice and not taking action as doing “violence”. Are you someone who shies from standing up for what is right? Do you stand by idly while injustice occurs? The New Testament places a great emphasis on taking care of other believers in the body and being there for them. Do you do this? Edom didn’t take care of their family and it displeased God greatly. Shoutout to God for having a significant message tucked away in a tiny unsuspecting book.

 

 

Don’t be that guy: The Story of Jonah

            The story of Jonah we have all heard in one capacity or another. Whether it be in Sunday School, a sermon, or just having a superficial awareness of Jonah and his short yet interesting story. The four chapter story can be summed up fairly easily: Jonah is called by God to bring Nineveh, a great terrible city, to repentance. Jonah then runs away but is swallowed up by a great fish-spewed back onto land and again given the charge to preach repentance to Nineveh. He preaches and Nineveh repents and as a result God does not smite the Ninevites. Meanwhile, Jonah stews about how they were saved not demolished.

Consensus about the purpose of Jonah among Old Testament scholars is that there is none. There are a bevy of interpretations concerning the purpose and point of the book. However, there is one thread that stuck out to me the most that connects the story of Jonah to our own contemporary world. We see Jonah as someone who knows the true God and thus is part of the people of God. God gives Jonah a mission to preach repentance to the Ninevites, so that they may turn from their life of pagan idolatry and a life without knowing the true God, to living lives in a manner that is reflective of the truth of the God of Israel, the one true God. But Jonah isn’t down with this plan and flees the opposite direction.

In a parallel manner, you and I have been called to evangelize to those who do not know the truth of Jesus and the kingdom of God. Be honest with yourself, as a disciple of Jesus, do you share the gospel with those who do not know it or have not accepted it? We can think of many reasons why we can’t or we shouldn’t, but is this being faithful to the call Jesus has given us? It’s uncomfortable, I get that. It can be awkward, you’re absolutely right. It’s scary, exactly. But let’s not be Jonah and run away from the message we have been given to proclaim.

Pray for boldness, confidence, and opportunity. Get the gospel message embedded in your heart and mind so that you know where to take someone when you dialogue with them. You got this, you can do it. Don’t be Jonah, be faithful.

-Jacob Rohrer

Bio: ABC (Atlanta Bible College) grad.  Ohio native. Kingdom citizen

 

Feeling Unqualified?

Amos 7-9

amos 7.png

Saturday, April 15

“I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees.  But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ (Amos 7:14-15)

 

God specializes in using ordinary people. Amos was the first prophet after the kingdom of Israel was divided by Jeroboam, preceding even Isaiah and Hosea.

Amos was just a shepherd (and a tree-tender).  He was hardly qualified to speak on behalf of the God of the universe.  But God had a job for him.  I think sometimes God calls those who seem ‘unqualified’ to do the most amazing work for him for three reasons.

  • They will give all the credit to Him.
  • They won’t question Him, assuming they know a better way.
  • They speak the language of the people and won’t talk over their heads.

Amaziah was the priest who should have been speaking God’s words.  He was the one “qualified” to be God’s prophet.  But when Amos goes to him, here’s what happens:

Amaziah says,

  ‘Do not prophesy against Israel,
    and stop preaching against the descendants of Isaac.’

Amos replies,

This is what the Lord says:

“Your wife will become a prostitute in the city,
    and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword.
Your land will be measured and divided up,
    and you yourself will die in a pagan country.
And Israel will surely go into exile,
    away from their native land.”

 

Did you get that?  The priest-boss says “Hey, knock it off. Quit saying bad stuff is going to happen” (Isn’t that a pretty common thing in the prophets?  People telling them to stop saying bad stuff was going to happen).  And Amos is like, “God says you’re all gonna die.  Mic drop.”

 

(Don’t think I don’t know that I’m too old and un-cool to use that phrase. But it fit, right?)

 

So whether you think you are qualified or not, keep your ears open for God’s call and your eyes open for His opportunity to speak truth and serve.

 

He’s got something for you!

 

-Susan Landry

 

Because He Loves

Amos 4-6

amos 4

Friday, April 14

Words I hope I never hear from God:   “…yet you have not returned to me.”

“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.

“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.

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.

“Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards,
    destroying them with blight and mildew.
Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees,
    yet you have not returned to me,”
declares the Lord.

“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.

“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,”  (Amos 4:6-11)

 

All children are different, you know.  Some are brought to repentance with simply a stern look.  Others, you could beat them with a stick (not that you would, of course) and they would still dig their heels in.

 

I remember a mother in my Women’s Bible Study years ago pray every single week for wisdom for herself and her husband to be able to mold their daughter’s strong spirit into a passion for God instead of a selfish passion.  She prayed for this child to grow to be a force to be reckoned with on behalf of God’s Kingdom.  And you know what, that is exactly what happened.

 

I feel like that’s what we’re seeing in this passage.  Each stanza is a punishment.

I gave you empty stomachs … stern look

I withheld rain … time out

I sent plagues … swat

…you get the picture.

 

Yet time and again, they stubbornly ignore and refuse to return to God and obey.

 

As we learned yesterday, God disciplines us because he loves us.  Keep your eyes open today for God’s discipline in your life.  What is He doing to get our attention and call you back to Him?  Pray that when you see His discipline, that you have the courage to act on it.  And you will become a force to be reckoned with for His Kingdom.

-Susan Landry