Tag Archives: Israel

Condemned by conformity! — 2 Kings 14:8-14; 15:10, 13-14, 16

Condemned by conformity! — 2 Kings 14:8-14; 15:10, 13-14, 16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 28, 2018

I used to go fishing for crawdads. As we caught them we would put them in a bucket of water. As the bucket got full of crawdads they would try to crawl out but the ones trying to get out were pulled back in by others trying to get out. As parents we warn are children about the influence of peer pressure. Peer pressure can be just like those crawdads that pulled others back into the bucket. I have learned however that peer pressure does not end in childhood, it continues into our adult life. There are those in our Christian lives who try to pull us back into conformity rather than live the lives God desires.

2 Kings 14–15 contains a brief history of the reigns of 3 kings over Judah and 6 kings over Israel. Their reigns were characteristic of life in Judah and in Israel. The reigns of the kings of Judah did okay but they compromised God’s requirements. They allowed people to offer sacrifices and offerings in the high places instead of in the temple in Jerusalem. Their disobedience resulted in Judah moving further away from God. And the six kings of Israel all did evil by worshiping golden calves and Baal. Both kingdoms went to war against one another and the final result of their unfaithfulness led to their conquest by Assyria. They were condemned by their conformity! Let’s discover why…

READ: 2 Kings 14:8-14; 15:10, 13-14, 16

Believers who disobey God, who do not worship him, and who do not repent will suffer the consequences of their sinful behaviors. This is true for common folks as well as leaders of nations. Here we learn that…

I. Spiritual conformity brings about destructive pride! (2 Kings 14:8-14)

Then Amaziah sent messengers to Jehoash son of Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, king of Israel, with the challenge: “Come, meet me face to face.” But Jehoash king of Israel replied to Amaziah king of Judah: “A thistle in Lebanon sent a message to a cedar in Lebanon, ‘Give your daughter to my son in marriage.’ Then a wild beast in Lebanon came along and trampled the thistle underfoot. You have indeed defeated Edom and now you are arrogant. Glory in your victory, but stay at home! Why ask for trouble and cause your own downfall and that of Judah also?” Amaziah, however, would not listen, so Jehoash king of Israel attacked. He and Amaziah king of Judah faced each other at Beth Shemesh in Judah. Judah was routed by Israel, and every man fled to his home. Jehoash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Joash, the son of Ahaziah, at Beth Shemesh. Then Jehoash went to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate–a section about six hundred feet long. He took all the gold and silver and all the articles found in the temple of the LORD and in the treasuries of the royal palace. He also took hostages and returned to Samaria.

1. Let’s break down what’s going on for the Israelites during this time. Amaziah the king of Judah to the south did some things right in God’s sight but not like his forefather David. He did evil by not removing the high places where people worshipped idols. David permitted no worship except that of God and no sacrifices except those offered in the temple in Jerusalem. Embolden by his military success against Edom, Amaziah challenged Jehoash to the north by telling him “Come, meet me face to face.” Jehoash was no dummy and responds by telling Amaziah, “A thistle in Lebanon sent a message to a cedar in Lebanon, ‘Give your daughter to my son in marriage.’ Then a wild beast in Lebanon came along and trampled the thistle underfoot. You have indeed defeated Edom and now you are arrogant.” Jehoash of Israel answered Amaziah’s challenge with a fable! Judah was just a small, weak weed and Israel as a strong Lebanon cedar. Jehoash’s army would be like the wild animal. Amaziah would be trampled to death in battle. Amaziah had become arrogant in his victories. Was he truly going to threaten northern Israel? Jehoash advised Amaziah: “Glory in your victory, but stay at home! Why ask for trouble and cause your own downfall and that of Judah also?” Amaziah refused to listen and “so Jehoash king of Israel attacked… at Beth Shemesh in Judah”. Jehoash did not stop there, he “went to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate–a section about six hundred feet long. He took all the gold and silver and all the articles found in the temple of the LORD and in the treasuries of the royal palace. He also took hostages and returned to Samaria.” What occurred was because in his pride “Amaziah… would not listen, for God so worked that he might hand them over to Jehoash, because they sought the gods of Edom. (2 Chronicles 25:20 NIV)” Spiritual conformity brings about destructive pride!

EXAMPLE: Many mainline churches today that had been spiritually great in the past are mere shadows of what they once enjoyed. They sent missionaries around the world with the Gospel. They fed the poor and helped the weak but now more often than not they are more involved in socialism than the spreading the Gospel. Arrogantly they depend upon spreading liberation theology than sharing the good news of Jesus Christ thinking that mankind can change the sinful condition of the world. Mankind can’t only the good news can. Spiritual conformity brings about destructive pride!

Pride often leads to disastrous consequences. Pride led Amaziah to declare war on Israel, one in which he suffered a humiliating and disastrous defeat. Not only did Amaziah suffer personally but also he brought disaster on his people, the city, the temple, and his palace. Pride should not be found among God’s people. As we continue we learn that…

II. Spiritual conformity brings about sinful ambition! (2 Kings 15:10, 13-14)

Shallum son of Jabesh conspired against Zechariah. He attacked him in front of the people, assassinated him and succeeded him as king… Shallum son of Jabesh became king in the thirty-ninth year of Uzziah king of Judah, and he reigned in Samaria one month. Then Menahem son of Gadi went from Tirzah up to Samaria. He attacked Shallum son of Jabesh in Samaria, assassinated him and succeeded him as king.

1. “Shallum son of Jabesh” of Israel, whose name means “retribution”, was originally a captain in the army of King Zechariah and now he “conspired against Zechariah”. He wanted to be king himself. And so we learn that “He attacked him in front of the people, assassinated him and succeeded him as king.” See, politics haven’t changed much in thousands of years! This is the culmination of ungodly spiritual conformity that goes back to Jehu. He was a king who had “destroyed Baal worship in Israel” (2 Kings 10:28). However, he was warned that because of his spiritual conformity of not turning “away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit—the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan” his descendants would only be in power for 4 generations. Jehoahaz, Joash, Jehoram, and Zechariah were his successors until it was abruptly ended by Shallum! However what goes around comes around and even though “Shallum son of Jabesh became king in the thirty-ninth year of Uzziah king of Judah” we quickly learn that “he reigned in Samaria one month”! And we think that our elections are so bad. They are nothing compared to those ungodly men who decided against following God and decided on their own to usurp power for themselves. Shallum was opposed and slain by Menahem, who, according to the historian Josephus, was the commander of the forces, which, on the report of the king’s murder, were besieging Tirzah, a town twelve miles east of Samaria, and formerly a seat of the kings of Israel. Stopping the siege, he marched directly against the usurper, “attacked Shallum son of Jabesh in Samaria, assassinated him and succeeded him as king.” Spiritual conformity brings about sinful ambition!

EXAMPLE: How often have we seen as large ministries or churches fall because of their leadership? The scandals that plague the Joel Olsten’s of the world are rife. Basic Youth Conflicts was one such organization. Here locally we had a fast growing mega church that was lead by one man fall into ungodliness. The Senior Pastor and his relatives made off with hundreds of thousands of dollars. He was later caught involved in ungodly perverted behavior and is serving time in prison for his crimes. We have seen the same kind of corruption in the history of the Catholic Church and other denominations when they become full of themselves rather than following the Lord. It is easy for those caught in the corruption of sin to acquiesce and excuse their ungodly behavior. Spiritual conformity brings about sinful ambition!

Many atrocities occur in today’s world. God’s people should renounce these brutalities that often characterize the ungodly. Christians should do what they can to help defend people who are helpless before such atrocities. These people include the unborn as well as children, youth, women, and elderly people who are abused. We discover that…

III. Spiritual conformity can bring a brutal response! (2 Kings 15:16)

At that time Menahem, starting out from Tirzah, attacked Tiphsah and everyone in the city and its vicinity, because they refused to open their gates and he sacked Tiphsah and ripped open all the pregnant women.

1. Before WWII churches were becoming complacent in Germany and the rest of the world. Some even took the posture that National Socialism was a good thing for Germany and perhaps the rest of the world! When the first reports of Jewish genocide reached the shores of America many did not believe it was occurring. Some reported it was a false narrative. Sadly it was not. Spiritual leaders simply refused to stand against the evil they saw rising around them. This is exactly what occurred in both the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The nation of Israel should never have been split into two separate nations. It should have remained true to God. What occurred afterwards is a horrendous example of what happens when God’s people do not remain true to him. Being a military man and only knowing aggression and the horror of war Menahem used his knowledge to subjugate Israel: “At that time Menahem, starting out from Tirzah, attacked Tiphsah and everyone in the city and its vicinity, because they refused to open their gates. He sacked Tiphsah and ripped open all the pregnant women.” What a horrendous act! He was a horrible leader and led his people into debauchery and ungodly worship: “In the thirty-ninth year of Azariah king of Judah, Menahem son of Gadi became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria ten years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD. During his entire reign he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit. (2 Kings 15:17-18 NIV)” It is a sad commentary to the outcome of the once great nation Israel! Spiritual conformity can bring a brutal response!

EXAMPLE: Believers who disobey God, do not worship him, and do not repent suffer the consequences of their sinful behaviors. We live in a time when there is societal pressure to shame believers into accepting perversion as normal and godly. TV shows like Young Sheldon offer viewers a distorted view of Christianity. The Pastor of the family’s church is often ridiculed and displayed as a dolt. The church secretary is seen as a chain-smoking crass elderly woman; and the mother is displayed as a hypocritical weakling who doesn’t have a clue about Christianity. What mainstream media desires is that Christians conform to their worldview or suffer the ridicule of their peers. Paul reminds us that “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8 NIV)” Spiritual conformity can bring a brutal response!

Conclusion:

Spiritual conformity brings about destructive pride! Spiritual conformity brings about sinful ambition! Spiritual conformity can bring a brutal response!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Malachi 4:1-6 – Being prepared!

Malachi 4:1-6 – Being prepared!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 22, 2018

Most of us on that Tuesday morning had not given much thought to what the day held. After all it was a pretty normal day. I was on my way to Morning Prayer and my thoughts were on the day. I was not thinking about eternal things. This was true for most of those who boarded planes in Boston, went to work in New York City, or began their day behind a desk at the Pentagon. Few that day had any idea of what the next few hours would bring, yet with devastating swiftness we were all reminded just how quick death comes. Since 9-11, it has made me wonder how many folks are prepared for eternity.

We find that the Prophet Malachi was very concerned about the subject of preparedness. It was in his thoughts as he wrote to the Israelites. He wanted them to consider the eternal consequences of their lives. He knew that if they did not think about their actions and faith now, there would come a time of reckoning for his nation and for each individual. This morning, as we read the final few verses of Malachi, we will be forced to consider the matter of being prepared as well. Let’s discover how…
READ: Malachi 4:1-6

When we are younger we think we have plenty of time to do what we want and then we discover that the years go by faster than we first thought. Living a life of no regrets doesn’t mean doing whatever we want when we want, rather it means living our lives in such a way as to not regret some of the decisions we have made. Malachi teaches us that being prepared means realizing that…

I. There will be a day of reckoning! (V. 1)

“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.”

1. It had been hundreds of year since Israel had heard from the Lord. It seemed as if he no longer cared for his people. He did but they had turned away from him instead of drawing close during a time that they should have been one of reflection and spiritual growth. Instead the Israelites had wasted their time and neglected the things of God. Malachi startles them by reminding them that “Surely the day is coming” and it would not be just an ordinary day because “it will burn like a furnace.” This is a dire warning and one that needed to be heeded. God’s words to the Israelites meant there would be harsh judgment coming. No one and nothing would be able to stand its fiery heat that would melt away all pretense and burn away any falseness. In fact, “All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire”. This is more than the purification of Israel and has to do with the judgment of all people everywhere. Israel may have felt alone, lost, and that God did not care but he did. He had not forsaken them and he would hold all of sinful mankind responsible; so “says the Lord Almighty”! God had said it and so it was true! Judgment was coming. God promised it would and “Not a root or a branch will be left to them” who had been the enemy of Israel. We far too often forget in our day and age that we are going to be held accountable for our attitudes and actions and that there will be a day of reckoning!

EXAMPLE: There is an old saying that states, “The light at the end of the tunnel may be an oncoming train!” There are those who live their lives for the moment. “It feels good to me, let’s do it!” is their motto. But whether you believe in it or not there will be a day of reckoning. Israel had thought that just because a lot of time had transpired, God was no longer involved. We can adopt the same false notion when we think we can do whatever we want whenever we want. However, God’s warning should wake us up! “Surely a day is coming” and there will be a day of reckoning!

The world was going to be judged. It still is. Nothing has changed yet the world has not learned the lesson Malachi wanted to teach them. Malachi reminds us that in being prepared we need to…

II. Remember who we follow! (Vv. 2-3)

“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the LORD Almighty.

1. Those that followed the Lord would not face the harsh judgment of God. Malachi gives the Israelites hope by reminding them “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” If we revere the Lord, lift him up and follow him we have nothing to fear. Those who revere God follow him no matter what others do or say. Reverence for God means you honor him with your life and not just give him lip service. The Day of the Lord would be horrendous for the wicked but for God’s people it would be one not of darkness but of sunshine and healing! The promises of God would come completely true for those he loves. No longer enslaved, no longer held captive, no longer seen as nothing God’s people would now “go out and leap like calves released from their stall.” Like a new day when the farmer lets his livestock out to forage and where the little calves leap for joy at being let go for the day the Israelites would leap for joy at being freed! These words are attributed to the Messiah who would come. The righteous would be victorious. God’s promise was that they would “trample down the wicked”. In fact they would “be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things” the LORD Almighty promised. Malachi knew the Israelites had stopped following God but he had not given up them. Malachi reminds us that we need to remember who we follow!

EXAMPLE: Why do you think that so many politicians end their remarks with, “God bless America”? Some would say it is an attempt at misguided patriotism. I honestly believe it is because they are trying to connect themselves with God whom they have forgotten, hoping their listeners will think they are both patriotic and religious. Perhaps, they want to re-identify themselves with their country and the inherent ideals that were foundational in her formation, although I rather doubt it. Why am I so skeptical? God has always been at the center of our nation no matter how many try to say otherwise. God is to be the foundation of any nation. His law is where we get our notion of freedom and liberty, the idea that everyone has worth. Malachi knew that God’s people are to remember their relationship with God. Malachi reminds us that we need to remember who we follow!

The Israelites needed to remember their past in order to prepare themselves for the present situation. If they could not they would not be prepared to step into the future God had for them. The same is true for us and our nation as well. Malachi understood this and reminds us that in being prepared…

III. We should reconsider our future formation! (Vv. 4-6)

“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

1. For them to remember the important moments of faith and Moses’ teachings would reestablish their spiritual foundation. Malachi tells them “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.” Too often we forget the past, and when we do we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Malachi attempted to correct the problem of forgetting the teachings of God by calling the Israelites back to those basic tenets of faith. God’s people are to remember their relationship with God! To prepare ourselves for eternity, we need to reorient our hearts to him. His words refer to the act of actually remembering the Law combined with appropriate actions. The Israelites thought that Elijah would come before the Messiah came because of what Malachi shared: “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.” He would “turn the hearts” of those who were willing to listen. The work of this Elijah-like messenger was found in John the Baptist. Malachi relates, “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” There is no greater need in America today than fathers to be actively involved in the spiritual lives of their children. We face a paternal spiritual crisis where fathers are not involved in the spiritual preparation of their children and because of this we face a vacuum that is being filled by all other kinds of ungodly behavior. This future formation must be heeded because unless God intervenes, the nation would be “cursed”. Malachi reminds us that we should reconsider our future formation!

EXAMPLE: Stamped on our money are the words, “In God We Trust,” yet is this true? The stones that Joshua put in the Jordan have been washed away, the fire pit of Elijah is overgrown with weeds and forgotten, and the temple in Jerusalem is no more. No one knows for absolute certainty where the empty tomb of Christ is. The only monument that stands the test of time is the one made in the human heart by God’s handiwork through the blood of Jesus. Will we remember the prayers we prayed and our conscious decision to follow God again? Will the dust of our dried out faith become the soil of renewal where “In God We Trust,” really means what it says? The choice is ours to make this morning. Joel said that, “The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful.” Then he asked, “Who can endure it?” (Joel 2:11 NIV) Malachi reminds us that we should reconsider our future formation!

Conclusion:

Paul said that, “the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 NIV) Malachi warned Israel that here will be a day of reckoning, Malachi reminds us that we need to remember who we follow, and Malachi prompts us to reconsider our future formation!

This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Malachi 1:1-5 – Being responsive!

Malachi 1:1-5 – Being responsive!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 11, 2018

My Mom used to play mind games with us kids when we did something bad. A lot of mothers do this. Here’s what I mean: Right in the middle of scolding us over our bad behavior, she would innocently ask, “Don’t you love your dear old mother?” Or she would declare, “I work and I slave and what thanks do I get?” It was a form of psychological warfare to get a response from us and to have us think about the consequences of our actions. It’s called guilt.

Malachi is kind of like my mother. His message is for God’s wayward children. Didn’t they love God? Didn’t God love them? If that were true, then why were they acting the way they did? Had they gotten spiritually soft? God’s chosen people had gotten so lackadaisical about their faith that they forget what their relationship to God meant! Malachi’s message from the Lord is to illicit a response from his people. Malachi’s message applies to us as much as it did for the spiritually lax Israelites. They needed to be open to God and what did for them. The same is true for us today, let’s discover how…
READ: Malachi 1:1-5

Malachi ministered in the fifth century BC, about 100 years after the Persian King Cyrus had issued the decree which permitted Jews to return from exile to Judah. Life was not easy under the political rule of Persia. Both the priests and the people were violating the stipulations of the Mosaic Law regarding sacrifices, tithes, and offerings. Much like today, their hope in God’s promises had dimmed, as evidenced by their intermarrying with nonbelievers, divorces and general moral apathy. They needed to respond to God’s love. Malachi teaches us that…

I. God’s people need to respond to Malachi’s message! (V. 1)

An oracle: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi.

1. One man’s message is another man’s burden! Malachi had a spiritually heavy message he had to share with his people. The word Hebrew mas-saw’ (burden), which this book begins, sets kind of a somber mood. The NIV translates this word as “an oracle”. The word comes from the Old English language of the middle ages. We now think of an oracle meaning a person like a priest or priestess who gives out kind of obscure advice that kind of sounds meaningless unless you are “wise” enough to interpret it. This is not the idea here from Malachi. In the prophetic books the Hebrew word mas-saw’ introduces messages of a threatening nature and this gives the prophet’s entire message a sense of anxiety and foreboding. Something he had to say but did not necessarily want to. It became a burden. Contrary to many modern religious pundits God’s messages are not always welcome and can often be sinister in nature! Especially if we know how we have been acting and we know how we should be responding! Notice that this spiritually heavy message was from God Himself: “The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi”! Traditionally Malachi, “My messenger”, has been viewed as the last prophet of the Old Testament period before John the Baptist, whose ministry Malachi predicted (Malachi 3:1). Nothing is known of his family and he is not mentioned by name elsewhere in the Bible. However, his message is so personal and intimate that the contents clearly indicate it was written by an actual person. Malachi was God’s voice speaking a heavy message to God’s spiritually lax people. Using a series of questions and answers, Malachi engages his listeners in a debate many would have rather ignored, but God’s people from all ages need to respond to Malachi’s message!

EXAMPLE: My Dad always knew when I wasn’t listening to him when he was getting after me. I would let my eyes kind of glaze over and roll back in my head. Perhaps the blank expression on my face also gave me away. My father knew I wasn’t listening to him and he would confront me about it by declaring, “Young man, you haven’t listened to a single word I said to you!” I would try to play innocent, but we both knew better and the clincher would be when he would say, “All right, tell me what I just said to you.” He wanted me to respond appropriately and I knew I was in real trouble when he would finish by telling me, “This is going to hurt me more than it does you.” This is kind of the way God deals with Israel through Malachi. Our sin and its consequences often hurt us more than it does God. God’s people need to respond to Malachi’s message!

We can forget that while God is love, his love demands a response from us. Not that we can earn his love because God indeed always does love, but that we need to realize that when we fail to respond the way we should to his love we are rejecting what he has done for us! Malachi reminds us of…

II. Our failure to respond to God’s love! (Vv. 2-5)

“I have loved you”, says the LORD. But you ask, “How have you loved us?” “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” the LORD says. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.” But this is what the LORD Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the LORD. You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD–even beyond the borders of Israel!”

1. An appropriate response to love is devotion! Malachi brings the claim of God’s love for Israel (1:2a)! God had always loved Israel. In fact, he could have chosen anyone else but he chose Israel. The Lord’s claim over Israel was vindicated by two considerations. His love expressed in his free choice of Jacob and his rejection of Esau. Yet, like a spoiled child, Israel questions God! “How have you loved us?” What a question to ask! God had deliberately decided not to follow the law of choosing the eldest son Esau over the younger brother. Instead God chose, out of love, Jacob! While Jacob had his deceptive faults, we soon learn Esau was willing to give up and cave in to his own natural sin rather than follow God. The Hebrew words here for love and hatred do not refer to emotions but rather actions. How can a child question a parent’s love when it is shown so dramatically? Yet, spoiled Israel did. Can we be like that as well? Yes! God has loved us and shown his love through Jesus. The vindication of God’s love claim is given: “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.” He is expressing his past relationship with Israel and Edom and also his historical and present dealings with these people. This then provides the second consideration which vindicated God’s claim of love. Israel needed to consider what her lot would have been like if she, like Edom, had not been elected to a covenant relationship with Yahweh. God restored Israel and not Edom. In fact, God would turn Edom’s “mountains into a wasteland and leave his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Edom may try to rebuild, but God would not allow it. They would be called A Wicked Land, as opposed to God’s Holy Nation. God tells spoiled Israel that if she doesn’t believe it, “You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD—even beyond the borders of Israel!’” Israel was guilty, just like Edom, and perhaps just like we often are of failing to respond to God’s love! What about you this morning, have you failed to respond to the love of God?

EXAMPLE: I remember my mother giving me the parental curse. It goes something like this: “One of these days I hope you have children just like you!” While God’s declaration through Malachi isn’t quite like this, it is similar in that he tells Israel, “You dare question my love after all I have done for you? Let me tell you something, Buster, there will come a time when you will see my love with your own eyes and recognize it for what it truly is!” That time would come through Jesus. Paul says not only will spoiled Israel ultimately recognize God’s love, but every wayward child of God will: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)” We can be guilty of failing to respond to God’s love in our lives!

Conclusion:

Perhaps you have forgotten just how much God loves you or like Israel did, you may question God’s love. Let me remind you that God loves us with an everlasting love. The spiritual message of Malachi is just as valid this morning. God’s people need to respond to Malachi’s message and not be like spoiled Israel who failed to respond to God’s love!!

This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Rebellion: A path to ruin! – Micah 1:1-9; 2:1-4a

Rebellion: A path to ruin! – Micah 1:1-9; 2:1-4a
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 16, 2013 AM

Susan was a beautiful, intelligent young woman with a bright future ahead of her. She started spending time with an on-the-edge group from work. Her father tried to warn her of her choices, but she refused to listen, thinking she knew what was best for her life. At a party she should never have attended, Susan made a tragic decision. A young man she wanted to impress gave her a taste of a dangerous drug known as Meth. Her immediate addiction took a devastating toll on every facet of her life. One year later the once beautiful girl was not heading up the corporate ladder but off to prison. Her teeth were rotting, her complexion was ruined, her hair was thin, and she was near starvation. She would have given anything to go back and make different decisions for her life.

Few adults like to be told what to do. Many prefer to reject authority, especially any that limits their freedom. They want to choose what to do and when they will do it. Many among us go even further. They delight in rebelling against God and His law. Each new generation must learn an important lesson the hard way: We cannot find fulfillment by rejecting God’s authority over our lives. God gives us His laws to protect and guide us. He wants us to have an abundant life filled with the joy of knowing Him and serving others. When we rebel against those laws, we suffer the consequences He wants to shield us from in our lives. When we decide to do our own thing, it is rebellion: a path to ruin! Let’s discover how rebellion is a path to ruin…

READ: Micah 1:1-9; 2:1-4a

We learned that if our father asked us to do something, he expected us to respond right away. To ignore his request or to refuse was an act of disobedience. There would be consequences for doing so. The nations of Israel and Judah forgot the Lord and refused to submit to His will. They rejected His laws and pursued sinful worldly pleasures. Like many today, they thought they could rebel against the Lord without paying a price. God sent Micah to warn people that their rebellion would have inevitable consequences and to call them to repent before it was too late. We read about…

I. God’s response to rebellion! (Vv. 1:1-5)

1. The name Micah means, “Who is like Yahweh?” He was a contemporary of Isaiah and prophesied around 735-700 B.C. not much is known about this prophet’s personal life. His hometown of Moresheth-gath (1:14), was 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem. Micah’s prophecy is the word of the Lord. He was not speaking his thoughts but revealing God’s message. Samaria and Jerusalem were the respective capitals of Israel and Judah in Micah’s day. The division of territories and dual thrones occurred following the death of Solomon. Micah spoke about Israel; but like Isaiah, he primarily focused on the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The Bible offers timeless messages for every generation. God is the same and sinful human beings are the same. Advancement has been made in information and technology but no improvement in basic human nature. People still reject the authority of a holy God and rebel against His will and laws. Micah painted a scene depicting the Lord God as a Judge with all the peoples of the earth as jury. The case was being made against Israel and Judah for their failure to obey the Lord. He would act as a witness against the rebellious kingdoms. The Lord declared He would leave His place (the holy of holies or heaven) and come down to trample the heights of the earth. God’s arrival would mean judgment and destruction for the disobedient. The coming of the Lord in anger warned sinners to repent. Sending Micah to warn the people of impending judgment was an act of mercy, giving sinners one more opportunity to repent before it was too late. Mountains and valleys represent the highest and lowest points on earth. Taken together they represent everything in the land. The Lord, however, can melt the mountains and split the valleys. These verbal images display the foolishness of opposing the Lord. “All this is because of Jacob’s transgression, because of the sins of the house of Israel.” It is God’s response to rebellion!

EXAMPLE: The listeners would ask, “What is Jacob’s transgression?” Micah responded, “Is it not Samaria? What is Judah’s high place? Is it not Jerusalem?” The high place was an elevated area where the people worshiped the Lord (2 Chronicles 33:17). In times of apostasy, however, these became sites of idolatry and the worship of false gods and goddesses (1 Kings 11:7). Jerusalem should have been a place where the Lord was worshiped, but had become another high place where idols were served. The leaders of both Samaria and Judah had set ungodly examples of idolatry and disobedience to the law. Do you think this could be true of America today? What are some of the high places our leaders have established? What do some believers worship today? We can be sure that the same God who punished sinful nations in the past will punish sinful nations in the present and future. Any nation that refuses to honor the Lord and His laws will eventually suffer the consequences just as Israel and Judah did. However, it is also true of disobedient believers as well! Those who rebel against the Lord will experience God’s discipline. It can be severe, depending on the depth of the rebellion; but it is always a redemptive act of a loving Father.

The message of Micah for Israel and Judah in the eighth century B.C. is relevant for those of us living in America in the 21st century. The Lord wants us to learn from the mistakes of the past so we will not repeat them and suffer similar consequences. Rebellion is a path to ruin for nations and individuals. Let’s see what Micah tells us about the…

II. Results of rebellion against God! (Vv. 1:6-9)

1. Micah predicted the destruction of Samaria, capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Israel never had a godly king and never experienced a spiritual revival. Israel fell in 722 B.C. when Assyria invaded and left Samaria in a heap of ruins (2 Kings 17:1-5). Micah predicted, “Therefore I will make Samaria a heap of rubble, a place for planting vineyards. I will pour her stones into the valley and lay bare her foundations.” Idolatry was the chief sin of Israel. God would cause Assyria to do what Israel should have done—smash her carved images and destroy all of her idols. The reference to prostitute has a double meaning. It probably refers to the cultic prostitutes who served at the pagan shrines. Symbolically Israel was a prostitute when its people abandoned God (their true Husband) and went after other gods. Therefore, “All her idols will be broken to pieces; all her temple gifts will be burned with fire; I will destroy all her images. Since she gathered her gifts from the wages of prostitutes, as the wages of prostitutes they will again be used.” However, the wages of their prostitution would be used by the invading Assyrians, because the money taken by Assyria in its victory would be used to deport and enslave the Israelites! Micah’s response was to “weep and wail” and to “go about barefoot and naked.” He would “howl like a jackal and moan like an owl” in his grief! Her “wound is incurable” refers to the certain judgment of God on Israel. The sin and resulting judgment was certain because Israel would not repent. Israel’s sinful influence affected Judah as well. Judah’s idolatry would bring the nation to the brink of destruction, also by Assyria. The Assyrian armies would march to the gate of Jerusalem and only the repentance and the godly leadership of Hezekiah saved Judah from Assyria (2 Kings 18–19)! It was the result of rebellion against God!

EXAMPLE: The worship of idols in some parts of the world today includes the use of images. However, idolatry in most developed countries like ours is more subtle. We may not carve images to our gods, but whatever is supremely important to a person is an idol. My father used to warn, “Be careful what you wish for, it just might come true!” Relationships, money, fame, education, power, and pleasure continue to be wished for or worshiped by many. These things are not evil or bad in of themselves; however, Christians living in the world are sometimes influenced more by these things rather than their faith in Christ. We must realize God still disciplines His people and the discipline can be severe. We must recognize the power of bad company and maintain obedience with a proper fear or respect for the holiness of God. Otherwise, we too can face the results of our rebellion against God!

The Lord identified idolatry as the primary sin of the nation. The many idols demonstrated a rejection of God’s commandments, and He promised they would be destroyed. In Micah 1:8–2:13, the prophet took on the role of a mourner in anticipation of devastating judgment on the people of Israel and Judah. He called on the sinful inhabitants of various cities to join him in mourning for their sins. Otherwise, they would…

III. Suffer the ruin of rebellion! (Vv. 2:1-4a)

1. Have you ever suffered from another’s evil schemes or plans? Micah described people with hearts and minds focused on evil plans. These people were deliberate in their desire to do harm to others. Micah laments, “Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it.” Wow! These folks plotted evil before they slept, and then the first thing they did in the morning was carry it out! These wicked plotters used surprise to overpower their victims. Micah focused on the mind, where all sin originates. The mind conceives and gives birth to sin! James, Jesus’ brother wrote that, “but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death!” (James 1:14-15 NIV) Micah identified greed as the source of many sinful acts in his day. Hasn’t changed much has it? The wicked coveted the fields, houses, and inheritance of others. Some folks loaned others money and then demanded payment when they knew the borrower would have to default. The account of King Ahab lying about Naboth to steal his vineyard (1 Kings 21) is an example of how widespread these abuses became. Micah related, “Therefore, the LORD says: ‘I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves. You will no longer walk proudly, for it will be a time of calamity.’” God’s judgment would be inescapable and would involve bondage. The neck was the place where yokes were placed, implying restraint. God tells Micah to prophesy that, “In that day men will ridicule you; they will taunt you with this mournful song: ‘We are utterly ruined; my people’s possession is divided up. He takes it from me! He assigns our fields to traitors.’” Pride is the root of arrogant disregard for the rights of others and of rebellious rejection of God’s authority. Those who we once thought of as our friends will deride us in our suffering! God promised an evil time when His people would no longer walk so proudly. Perhaps, America is suffering or will suffer from believer’s being so arrogant and prideful? We can suffer from the ruin of our rebellion!

EXAMPLE: One of the worst punishments I ever received from my father was when he caught me planning to get even with my brother Ed. He told me while it was not right what Ed did, my scheming to get even was worse because I was plotting evil against my own brother. Crime is the work of professional criminals and amateurs who plot evil against innocent victims. Each day robberies, rapes, murders, and destructive acts are testimonies to the plans of the wicked. Some criminals are violent while others use technology to steal identities and defraud businesses and individuals. Terrorists motivated by hatred are constantly looking for ways to destroy their enemies. Greed continues to motivate many today. Unscrupulous schemers spread their lies hoping to deceive and cheat naïve victims. Some major corporations defraud investors with deceptive accounting. It is worse when believers plot against each other or family members steal form one another. The sins of Micah’s day continue to appeal to the covetous hearts of sinful human beings today. However, make no mistake; we will suffer from the ruin of our rebellion!

Conclusion:
Those who fail to heed the warnings of God’s Word discover that opposing Him always leads to physical, emotional, and spiritual ruin. We can proudly oppose the Lord and be humbled or we can submit humbly to Him. We looked at God’s response to rebellion; the results of rebellion against God; and how we can suffer the ruin of rebellion.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2013 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Malachi 1:1-5 – Being responsive!

Malachi 1:1-5 – Being responsive!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 4, 2011 AM

My Mom used to play mind games with us kids when we did something bad. A lot of mothers do this. Here’s what I mean: Right in the middle of scolding us over our bad behavior, she would innocently ask, “Don’t you love your dear old mother?” Or she would declare, “I work and I slave and what thanks do I get?” It was a form of psychological warfare to get a response from us and to have us think about the consequences of our actions. It’s called guilt.

Malachi is kind of like my mother. His message is for God’s wayward children. Didn’t they love God? Didn’t God love them? If that were true, then why were they acting the way they did? Had they gotten spiritually soft? God’s chosen people had gotten so lackadaisical about their faith that they forget what their relationship to God meant! Malachi’s message from the Lord is to illicit a response from his people. Malachi’s message applies to us as much as it did for the spiritually lax Israelites of his day. They needed to be responsive to God and what he continually did for them. The same is true for us today, let’s discover how…

READ: Malachi 1:1-6

Malachi ministered in the fifth century BC, about 100 years after the Persian King Cyrus had issued the decree in 538 BC which permitted Jews to return from exile to Judah. Life was not easy under the political rule of Persia. Most hearts were indifferent or resentful toward God. Both the priests and the people were violating the stipulations of the Mosaic Law regarding sacrifices, tithes, and offerings. Much like today, their hope in God’s promises had dimmed, as evidenced by their (a) intermarrying with nonbelievers, (b) divorces and (c) general moral apathy. They needed to respond to God’s love. Let’s discover what occurred and perhaps find a proper response for our day and age. We discover that…

I. God’s people need to respond to Malachi’s message! (V. 1)

1. One man’s message is another man’s burden!
1) Malachi had a spiritually heavy message he had to share with his people. The word mas-saw’ (“burden”), which this book begins, sets kind of a sober mood. The NIV translates this word as “An oracle.” In the prophetic books mas-saw’ introduces messages of a threatening nature and this gives the prophet’s entire message a sense of anxiety and foreboding. Contrary to many modern religious pundits God’s messages are not always welcome and can often be sinister in nature! Especially if we know how we have been acting and we know how we should be responding! Notice that this spiritually heavy message was from God Himself! Traditionally Malachi, “My messenger”, has been viewed as the last prophet of the Old Testament period before John the Baptist, whose ministry Malachi predicted (Malachi 3:1). Nothing is known of his family and he is not mentioned by name elsewhere in the Bible. However, his message is so personal and intimate that the contents clearly indicate it was written by an actual person. Malachi was God’s voice speaking a heavy message to God’s spiritually lax people. Using a series of questions and answers, Malachi engages his listeners in a debate many would have rather ignored, but God’s people from all ages need to respond to Malachi’s message because it is a “word of the Lord” for his people!

EXAMPLE: My Dad always knew when I wasn’t listening to him when he was getting after me. I would let my eyes kind of glaze over and roll back in my head. Perhaps the blank expression on my face also gave me away. My father knew I wasn’t listening to him and he would confront me about it by declaring, “Young man, you haven’t listened to a single word I said to you!” I would try to play innocent, but we both knew better and the clincher would be when he would say, “All right, tell me what I just said to you.” He wanted me to respond appropriately and I knew I was in real trouble when he would finish by telling me, “This is going to hurt me more than it does you.” This is kind of the way God deals with Israel and us through Malachi. However, our sin and its consequences often hurt us more than it does God. Yet God’s people need to respond to Malachi’s message!

We can forget that while God is love, his love demands a response from us. Not that we can earn his love because God indeed always does love, but that we need to realize that when we fail to respond the way we should to his love we are rejecting what he has done for us! Malachi reminds us of…

II. Our failure to respond to God’s love! (Vv. 2-5)

1. An appropriate response to love is devotion!
1) Malachi brings the claim of God’s love for Israel (1:2a)! God had always loved Israel. In fact, He could have chosen anyone else but He chose Israel. The Lord’s claim over Israel was vindicated by two considerations. His love expressed in his free choice of his election of Jacob and his rebuff (hatred/rejection) of Esau. Yet, like a spoiled child, Israel’s questions God’s claim (1:2b)! How had God loved them? What a question to ask! God had deliberately decided not to follow the prescribed law of choosing the eldest son Esau over the younger brother. Instead God chose, out of love, Jacob! While Jacob had his deceptive faults, we soon learn Esau was willing to give up and cave in to his own natural sin rather than follow God. The Hebrew words here for “love” and “hatred” do not refer to emotions but rather actions. How can a child question a parent’s love when it was shown so dramatically? Yet, spoiled Israel did. Can we be like that as well? Yes! God has loved us and shown his love through Jesus Christ. In fact that Bible tells us that “God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son”! (John 3:16 NIV)

2) The vindication of God’s love claim is given by him (1:2c-5)! The verbs “I have loved” and “I have hated” (vv. 2b-3a) are in the perfect tense and therefore express not only God’s past relationship with Israel and Edom but also His historical and present dealings (in Malachi’s day) with these people. This then provided the second consideration which vindicated God’s claim of love. Israel needed to consider what her lot would have been like if she, like Edom, had not been elected to a covenant relationship with Yahweh. God restored Israel and not Edom. In fact, God would turn Edom’s “mountains into a wasteland” and leave “his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Edom may try to rebuild, but God would not allow it. They would be called “A Wicked Land,” as opposed to God’s “Holy Nation.” God tells spoiled Israel that if she doesn’t believe it, “You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD—even beyond the borders of Israel!’” Israel was guilty, like Edom, perhaps like we often are, of failing to respond to God’s love! What about you this morning, have you failed to respond to the love of God?

EXAMPLE: I remember my mother giving me the parent’s curse. It goes something like this: “One of these days I hope and pray you have children just like you.” While God’s declaration through Malachi isn’t quite like this, it is similar in that he tells Israel, “You dare question my love after all I have done for you? Let me tell you something, Buster, there will come a time when you will see my love with your own eyes and recognize it for what it is.” That time would come through Jesus Christ. Paul says not only will spoiled Israel ultimately recognize God’s love, but every wayward child of God will: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).” We can be guilty of failing to respond to God’s love in our lives!

Conclusion:
Perhaps you have forgotten just how much God loves you or like Israel, you may question God’s love. Let me remind you that God loves us with an everlasting love and proved it by sending Jesus into the world. Paul reminds us that “at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” and that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6 & 8 NIV) The heavy spiritual message of Malachi is just as valid this morning. God is telling us, just like he did when Israel questioned his love that he does indeed love us and has proven it through Jesus. How will you respond?
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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