What We Deserve

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Ecclesiastes 8:2-9:12

Solomon begins here with examples of improper decorum before a king. In his great authority he can do whatever he pleases, his word is law. So who in their right mind would say to him. “What are you doing?” We see this same idea applied to God in Job 9:12 and Isaiah 45:9. So Solomon says to obey the king, be loyal and not rebellious. Do not do something that is bad or wrong just because you do not like or agree with someone. Seems like common sense but we see it every day on the street level all the way up to those with the greatest wealth, power, and influence. There is even a saying that goes with it, “You cut off your nose to spite your face.”

So do not ask, “What are you doing?” but submit, for “whoever obeys will come to no harm.” This is the way of the wise. The wise person has a better chance of knowing the best course of action and when to act, knowing the proper time and procedure. And yet they still find misery as none knows what the future holds. Misery because we do know that there are consequences for our wickedness. And just as no one can control the wind or delay death, no one can escape the consequences for our wicked, sinful ways.

Life is not fair! … Solomon talks about the wicked being buried. In this context it implies that they receive undeserved respect. A proper burial given to an undeserving wretch. False believers who say the words and make a show of faith. So much so that they receive praise, but they are wicked none the less. They reach this status when justice is not dealt out in proper time. He may commit a hundred crimes and yet live a long life. Worse, he is adored by others who wallow in their own sin, rejoicing that this glorious example has been set for them to work towards. But there will be judgment! The righteous, God-fearing man will have life and the wicked … death!

Life is not fair! … Righteous men get what the wicked deserve and the wicked get what the righteous deserve. Circumstances and choices can lead to what might appear to be unrighteous judgment. Verse 13 tells us that justice will come … in time. Until then, verse 15 points to the wisdom of trusting God and enjoying the many ways in which we are blessed. See, we do not see the “big picture” that God does so we cannot fully understand why things happen when and in the ways that they do. It is better to accept what we are capable of and not stress ourselves with what we are not.

We are in God’s hands. He alone knows what awaits the righteous and the wise and all that they do. “All share a common destiny – the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.” … Death! Death is the destiny we share and the answer to the question, “What does the future hold, what awaits us?” Solomon refers to this as “the evil in everything.” It cuts down the young and old alike. Death does not care whether you are good or bad. Some believe that because death is so arbitrary that it is excusable to rush into sin, to relish in it all their days. It is where we get sayings like, “Live like there is no tomorrow, live life to the fullest” and of course the most popular one in recent years, “YOLO, you only live once.”

For the wicked I guess this is pretty much true. They have no hope for the eternal life promised by God through His son Jesus so this is all that they have. But the living, those who have life through Jesus, they have hope. But in death we will know nothing. No longer able to learn or grow and in time we will be forgotten. God will not forget you though. We can believe this, we can trust it. He did not forget Saul who became Paul. He did not forget Peter, who denied Jesus. He did not forget Ezra, Nehemiah, Joseph or Job. He will not forget you!

Life is not fair! … I hear this all the time from people of all ages. I used to say this myself in frustration, thinking of the ways that I have been hurt or wronged. I stopped saying it when I took Romans 6:23 to heart, “For the wages of sin is death.” If life was fair and was as immediate as our impatience would hope it was, we would be dead the moment we sinned for the first time. In other words, man-kind would be extinct! If we got what we deserved we would not exist! Instead we have received mercy and compassion that goes beyond our comprehension and that we do not deserve.

I for one am grateful, not for what I deserve but for what I do not.

-Jeff Ransom

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Confession Time

PROVERBS 28

Proverbs 28-18

Verses 13-28 examine the fates of the wicked compared to the righteous.  Verse 13 reads, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”  In which camp would you routinely place yourself?  Are there certain parts of our lives that we are quick to share if we sin or fall short, but others that we conceal for the sake of reputation or fear of conflict or avoidance of the consequences?  This verse doesn’t specify between transgressions; whoever conceals his sins will not prosper.  Confessing before the Lord and all other necessary parties brings mercy and an opportunity for growth.  Are there specific wrongs in your life that need to come into the light?  We all have room for growth, and we should ask the Lord to reveal to us our shortcomings.  John 15:2 reads, “Every branch that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”  Even our fruitful endeavors need pruning.

 

I would encourage you to pray about your transgressions.  Admit to yourself and the Lord that you have sins, not that you just make mistakes or have oversights.  Ask for help in renouncing and repenting of these shortcomings, and actually try to follow through in walking away from whatever you have been keeping in the dark.  Don’t just make a quick promise, but deliberately seek righteousness.

 

-Megan Bryant

Consequences for Evil Overflow

Ezekiel 20-21

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Friday, March 24

In Ezekiel 20 God reviews Israel’s history.  Over and over God provided for His people, over and over He warned them to get rid of their idols, keep His commands and observe His Sabbaths.  Over and over Israel failed to obey God and experienced the consequences.  Over and over God was compassionate and loving and forgave His people and restored them to blessings.

Israel has repeated this history again.  They failed to get rid of idols, they failed to keep his commands and observe his Sabbaths, and now they were about to experience the consequences of their sins.  God would once again treat them with mercy, not as their sins deserved and restore them to their land.

Ezekiel juxtaposes God’s promise to be merciful and restore His people with the threat that His judgment is coming and that both the evil and the good will be cut off from the land and the city and the temple.  Yes, everyone will suffer the consequences of the evil behavior of some.

There is tension throughout Ezekiel.  The wicked will suffer for their sins and the righteous will not suffer, except that at first they will suffer for the sins of others.  Sometimes when God brings his judgment designed to bring people to repentance there is collateral damage.  Good people suffer when bad people sin.  It’s how it was then, it’s still how it is today.  God’s salvation is coming, earth will one day be restored and made whole and good, but in the meantime, good people will suffer alongside the wicked.  Christians are martyred in places like Pakistan and Syria.  Christians sometimes suffer persecution in the United States.  Trials may come to God’s people during times of judgment, but those who trust God and repent of their sins will be saved.

-Jeff Fletcher

(photo credit: http://w3ace.com/stardust/scripture/verse/Ezekiel_20:17)

“Here I Am! Send Me!”

Isaiah 4-6

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Monday, February 6

Today, we continue on to Isaiah 4-6.   In this section, there is one of the most well-known passages in the whole Bible, Isaiah’s vision of the LORD in chapter 6.  Before we get there though, we will talk briefly about chapters 4 and 5.

There are essentially two main purposes to the book of Isaiah: “to assure Judah that God would surely judge them for their sins… [And] to assure God’s people of God’s wonderful plan for their future,” (The 5Ws and 1H of Genesis Through Malachi, Robert Jones).  In the first three chapters, we got a sense of the first purpose, to assure Judah/Israel that God does not leave the guilty unpunished.  However, starting in chapter 4, we get a sense of God’s wonderful plan for their future.  After ridding the place of evil, God will establish a place (The Kingdom of God) that shall be “beautiful and glorious.”

Chapter 5 deals with the wicked, once again.  Verse 24 and 25 sums it up fairly well: “for they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.  Therefore, the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people.”  We have two things happening here.  One, the people are rejecting the LORD and despising Him.  On the other hand, we see that the anger of the LORD is put against his own chosen people.  The people sin, and God responds by getting angry.  However, we know that God is slow to anger as he describes himself in Exodus 34:6, 7.  God’s chosen people kept sinning with no signs of repentance.  What Isaiah is describing is not a sin here or there.  Rather, Isaiah is describing a people, whom God loves very much, living a life of sin.  God’s chosen people of Israel, the same people He has performed many miracles for, were forsaking the LORD.  God does not leave the guilty unpunished, also found in Exodus 34:6, 7.

The beginning of chapter 6 sets the scene of when this was going on.  Isaiah 6:1 states, “In the year that King Uzziah died.”  King Uzziah was one of the Kings of Judah after the split of Israel, and he died in the year 740 BC.  This is not long after the Golden Age of Israel when it was a unified nation under kings Saul, David, and Solomon.  It is also before the Israelites were exiled into the Babylonian land.  Therefore, the ministry and writing of Isaiah took place before books such as Ezra and Nehemiah.  Isaiah’s ministry is taking place at the same time many of the events in 1st and 2nd Kings and Chronicles are taking place.

As mentioned before, Isaiah 6 is one of the most well-known passages in the whole Bible.  It paints a beautiful picture as to what the Throne of God looks like. You can compare this picture to the description of God’s Throne in Revelation 4.  In Isaiah’s vision, as he approaches the throne of God, he humbles himself by basically saying he was not worthy to be seeing what he was seeing.  Then, God asks Isaiah whom He shall send.  Isaiah then wonderfully replied by stating, “Here I am! Send me.”  We can learn a lot from this simple statement.  The attitude that Isaiah displayed here should be the same attitude we express in our lives.  The harvest indeed is plenty and the workers few.  The LORD is seeing who he can send to do His work.  Are you willing to do his work?

-Kyle McClain

My name is Kyle McClain, and I am currently attending the Atlanta Bible College.  It is my second year at the Bible college and I will receive my bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry next year.  I am excited to be able to go through the first third of the book of Isaiah with you all (or y’all as they say down here in Georgia).

 

God’s DETEST List

Proverbs 14-16

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Wednesday, January 25

A phrase that is repeated numerous times in the Proverbs is “The Lord detests…”  It’s not just, “God doesn’t really like it very much when we ….”.   No, The Lord DETESTS!  I for one want to be far, far, far away from God’s DETEST List.  Sounds like we need some more information to know what to avoid.

— 15:8 – The Lord DETESTS the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him.
— 15:9 – The Lord DETESTS the way of the wicked, but he loves those who pursue righteousness.
— 15:26 – The Lord DETESTS the thoughts of the wicked, but those of the pure are pleasing to him.
— 16:5 – The Lord DETESTS all the proud of heart.  Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.

My heart sinks.   Wasn’t it just yesterday I said my PRIDE leads me to believe I am usually right.  Perhaps I am inching closer to that Detest List than I would like to admit.  And, the dangers don’t end there – there are numerous other “The Lord DETESTS” throughout the Proverbs: haughty eyes, lying tongue, hands that shed blood, a scheming heart, feet rushing to evil, a false witness, a man stirring up dissension (6:16-19), perverse hearts (11:20), acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent (17:15), and dishonest scales (20:23).  We are so comfortable with the warm and fuzzy “God of Love”, that we sometimes prefer to forget about the Lord DETESTS list.  So, while we are spending some time evaluating our mouth this week, let’s also examine our heart and deeds and attitudes and thoughts.  May we not become like the Pharisees, so proud of our “righteousness” that we lose sight of God and His many-faceted and always right –  love AND judgment.
Dear God – Help me to see myself clearly, as You see me.   Help me to grow in my understanding of You and what You desire of me.   Help me steer clear of ALL that is on your DETEST list and seek to please you always.

And, speaking of pleasing God . . . here’s just a sampling of some more great lessons from these 3 chapters of Proverbs . . .

On our Attitude

  • “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (14:30)
  • “All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.  Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.” (15:15,16)

Contentment with what you have and what comes your way.  It is well with my soul – even if I don’t have what others do or what I thought I wanted.  Enjoy the feast before you – whatever it may be.

On Patience vs. Temper  –

  • “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city” (16:32)
  • “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel” (15:18)
  • “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly” (14:29)
  • “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15:1)

Watching our mouth is so much easier when we learn to think before speaking.  Slow down, simmer down – it will save you, and others, a lot of grief.

On Helping the Needy –

  • “He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.” (14:21)
  • “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” (14:31)

How can you honor God this week with an act of kindness to the needy?
God Bless You as You Seek Him,

Marcia Railton

 

(Photo credit: photo by Bob Smerecki, found at https://www.flickr.com/photos/snapnpiks0304/10636599685)