Friday, March 29, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to the Book of Nahum

Introduction to the Book of Nahum 


Nahum’s name means: Consoled, Comforted, Reassured. Little known about Nahum. Called an Elkoshite. Elkosh location unknown, assumed to be Capernaum (“the village of Nahum”). He warned Assyria’s capital Nineveh of God’s wrath. 


The book was perhaps written between 663-612 B.C. He is assumed to have ministered during Assyria’s domination over Judah. We know that Nineveh was destroyed in 612 B.C., and this date gives a rough estimate of Nahum’s time frame of prophesy. In Nahum 3:8-10 the prophet speaks of the fall of the city of Thebes which was in Upper Egypt. This prophecy must have been written after this time but not too long after because Thebes quickly recovered which would have been a bad example for the people of Nineveh. 

Nahum’s Message 

Nahum was sent to foretell the destruction of evil Nineveh to the people. Nahum 1:3 says that “the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished.” The book of Nahum ends with this: “Nothing can heal your wound; your injury is fatal. Everyone who hears the news about you claps his hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty?” He criticizes Assyrian policies for going against God’s will, and he declares that a “violent disruption” will take place. But the People of Nineveh didn’t believe that judgment was coming. In fact, they laughed at the prophet! 

There are three important truths Nahum teaches us: 

The universality of God’s Kingdom. The LORD rules among the nations.
God’s government has a retributive character. As Nineveh sowed, so must Nineveh reap.
God’s universal government is subordinate to the LORD’s scheme of grace.

Chapter 1 

Nahum prophesies against Nineveh: “The LORD takes vengeance on his enemies. The LORD says, ‘I will break his yoke from you.’ Hold your feasts, O Judah!” 

Chapter 2 

Nahum says, “The LORD is restoring Jacob. Chariots race through the streets. Nineveh is like a draining pool. ‘I am against you,’ declares the LORD.” 

Chapter 3 

Nahum says, “Woe to the bloody city! God declares, ‘The nations will look at your shame.’ Draw water for the siege. Your shepherds are asleep, O king of Assyria.”

Monday, March 25, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to the Book of Joel

Readings for this week

Monday: Ecclesiastes 12
Tuesday: Joel 1
Wednesday: Joel 2
Thursday: Joel 3
Friday: Nahum 1
Saturday: Nahum 2
Sunday: Nahum 3

Introduction to the Book of Joel


The exact time of Joel’s life is uncertain. Some scholars list him as the earliest of the minor prophets, some list him as the latest, and many place him somewhere in the middle. Joel is placed as the second of the twelve prophets in the Hebrew canon. Joel possibly lived in the 8th century B.C. He may have prophesied in the Southern Kingdom of Judah during the period of The Divided Kingdom from 792-740 B.C. His book likely did not reach its final redacted state until much later. If these are the correct dates for Joel’s ministry, then he would have ministered during the reign of King Uzziah (aka Azariah) of Judah. King Uzziah ruled for 52 years and died of leprosy. The prophet Isaiah began his ministry “in the year that King Uzziah died.” 

“The Ammonites paid annual tribute to him, and his fame spread even to Egypt, for he had become very powerful.”
-- 2nd Chronicles 26:8

The southern kingdom of Judah was experiencing tremendous expansion militarily, administratively, commercially, and economically. Judah was undergoing constant changes which would have affected Joel’s ministry, including natural disasters like plagues of locust, and severe drought.

Purpose for his ministry:

Proclaim the judgment and the grace of God
Encourage the people and leaders to gather for fellowship and prayer.
Challenge people to repent.
Record God’s prophetic message of encouragement and blessing for those who sincerely repented 

In Joel, we see:

God’s call for the sinners’ repentance (2:12-14)
The wisdom a follower of God should uphold in times of great crisis (plague, drought)
Foreshadowing of Christ’s coming (2:31)
God’s amazing grace to sinners 

The Message 

A call to repent because the day of the LORD is coming
The Restoration of Israel will take place. 

Chapter One 

Joel says, “What the locust swarm has left other locusts have eaten. The fields are destroyed. Lament, O priests! The day of the LORD is near.” 

Main Message: 

We see the prophet call for Israel to repent. The invasion of the locusts is foreshadowing the Day of the LORD. This plague could have been literal or figurative. 

Things Destroyed: Grain, wine, oil, joy in Israel, worship in the Temple. 

The exact sin of the people is not identified. But we see that God is giving His people a chance to repent and turn from their wicked ways.

Joel says, “Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.” 

Chapter Two 

Joel says, “A great army is on the mountains. Return to the LORD for he is merciful, and says to you, ‘Fear not, I will restore you. I will pour out my Spirit.’" 

Main Message:

God’s mercy is on display. He pleads with Israel to turn to Him. This chapter also highlights His grace, forgiveness, and restoration. He is jealous for His people. Zion is mentioned seven times. 

Chapter Three 

Joel says, "I will gather all the nations for judgement. For the day of the LORD is near. Jerusalem will be inhabited for all generations." 

Main Message:

Restoration for Israel and judgment on the nations who are against Israel. He calls for them to “...renew their connection with the LORD.” Destruction is only temporary – the Temple is destroyed, but not religious significance. The people can still pray to the LORD even when the Temple is in ruins.

Joel also tells the people to “Rend your hearts and not your garments!” To rend means: “to tear, split, or lacerate, usually clothing or hair, as a sign of anger, grief, or despair.” The point is for them to examine their own hearts, rather than worrying about outward appearances.

Monday, March 18, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Ecclesiastes 5-12

Readings for this week

Monday: Ecclesiastes 5
Tuesday: Ecclesiastes 6
Wednesday: Ecclesiastes 7
Thursday: Ecclesiastes 8
Friday: Ecclesiastes 9
Saturday: Ecclesiastes 10
Sunday: Ecclesiastes 11

Introduction to Ecclesiastes 5-12

Chapters 5-6 

When one goes to before God, one ought to be more concerned with what God has to say than with what they have to say to God. One must truly fear God rather than practice empty religion.

“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.
Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools,
who do not know that they do wrong.”

“Do not be quick with your mouth,
do not be hasty in your heart
to utter anything before God.
God is in heaven
and you are on earth,
so let your words be few.
A dream comes when there are many cares,
and many words mark the speech of a fool.”

As one guards against corrupt authority by striving to be self-sufficient, one finds that one’s protection in material gain becomes their undoing. Qoheleth affirms that life becomes something which can be enjoyed when God is known to be the giver of its fruit and labor.

“Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is hevel.”

“As goods increase,
so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owners
except to feast their eyes on them?”

“Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb,
and as everyone comes, so they depart.
They take nothing from their toil
that they can carry in their hands.” 

Chapters 7-8 

The value of difficulties is described variously as that which enriches rather than destroys a person.

“A good name is better than fine perfume,
and the day of death better than the day of birth.
It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.”

Deathday Better than Birthday Explained...

"The point throughout is the person's name. When a baby is born it has no name - quite literally - and even after it has been given a name, that name is essentially meaningless until the person has actually grown and begun to do things in life. Little by little, he or she becomes a person, first doing this, then that, until slowly that "name" begins to mean something, for good or for ill. Eventually, it is full of rich detail and nuance - as detailed and nuanced as the person's own life. And like any nonmaterial thing, it is impervious to change; no one can steal someone else's name, and it will not erode or wash away. Meanwhile, that same person's physical existence has started down the long path of decline that is the lot of all humans. In a physical sense, we are all like the precious anointing oil: what was very valuable at first begins to lose its savor, and sooner or later the whole vial will be used up or go bad and have to be disposed of. That day, the day of a person's death, is certainly a sad day, but it is no less a day of great significance, since it marks the completion of the process of building a name. One can now take a step backward and contemplate (as one could not before) the whole person. In the end, each of us becomes our name; this is all that survives of the dissolution of our "precious oil," our physical selves."

To dwell on the superiority of the past is to not deal skillfully with today.

“Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’
For it is not wise to ask such questions.”

“Consider what God has done:
Who can straighten
what he has made crooked?
When times are good, be happy;
but when times are bad, consider this:
God has made the one
as well as the other.
Therefore, no one can discover
anything about their future.”

For one to alienate oneself for wisdom and righteousness is for one to ruin their life. To be evil and foolish is to lose one’s life. To be someone who fears God is to be able to be upright and to live with the knowledge that one is good and evil. It is good to hold on to righteousness and to also be aware of one’s evil because this leads to a fear of God.

“Do not be over-righteous,
neither be over-wise—
why destroy yourself?
Do not be over-wicked,
and do not be a fool—
why die before your time?
It is good to grasp the one
and not let go of the other.
Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.”

Although Wisdom and righteousness are helpful, no one is completely pure.

“Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous,
no one who does what is right and never sins.”

“Do not pay attention to every word people say,
or you may hear your servant cursing you—
for you know in your heart
that many times you yourself have cursed others.”

“This only have I found:
God created mankind upright,
but they have gone in search of many schemes.”

“Who is like the wise?
Who knows the explanation of things?
A person’s wisdom brightens their face
and changes its hard appearance.”

Qoheleth affirms that wisdom is a great attribute because it gives perspective to the hurts which one faces. Because of a person’s commitment to God, one should obey the governmental authority over him and not quickly rebel so as to incur the government’s sovereign retaliation.

"Obey the king’s command, I say, because you took an oath before God.
Do not be in a hurry to leave the king’s presence.
Do not stand up for a bad cause, for he will do whatever he pleases."

Examining life from a natural vantage point leads to frustration because the wicked never fully pay for their evil and this incites more evil.

"When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out,
people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong."

Although life from a natural vantage point seems to be out of control and replete with injustices, one should enjoy it as a God-fearer who understands His oversight.

"There is something else that is hevel that occurs on earth:
the righteous who get what the wicked deserve,
and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve.
This too, I say, is hevel.
So I commend the enjoyment of life,
because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad.
Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun." 

Chapters 9-10 

Because one does not receive from life what one puts into life, it is impossible to explain the experiences of life outside of the hand of God. Death is a fate which awaits everyone, even those who pursue evil and deserve worse.

"This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun:
The same destiny overtakes all.
The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live,
and afterward they join the dead.
Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!"

Life is more advantageous than death because the living are still able to enjoy life and especially impact the lives of those around them.

"For the living know that they will die,
but the dead know nothing;
they have no further reward,
and even their name is forgotten. Their love, their hate
and their jealousy have long since vanished;
never again will they have a part
in anything that happens under the sun."

"Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart,
for God has already approved what you do.
Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil.
Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love,
all the days of this hevel life that God has given you under the sun—all your hevel days.
For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might,
for in the realm of the dead, where you are going,
there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom."

Even though the experiences of a person’s life may be capriciously hurtful to any individual, one’s skill in life will be a source of life for many. There is not a natural cause-and-effect relationship to life because all are subject to the limitations of time and the capriciousness of chance.

"The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all."

Qoheleth affirms that foolish, sinful youthful choices lead to personal and public harm in life.

"The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded
than the shouts of a ruler of fools.
Wisdom is better than weapons of war,
but one sinner destroys much good.
As dead flies give perfume a bad smell,
so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.
Even as fools walk along the road,
they lack sense
and show everyone how stupid they are.
Whoever digs a pit may fall into it;
whoever breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake.
Whoever quarries stones may be injured by them;
whoever splits logs may be endangered by them.
A feast is made for laughter,
wine makes life merry,
and money is the answer for everything.
Do not revile the king even in your thoughts,
or curse the rich in your bedroom,
because a bird in the sky may carry your words,
and a bird on the wing may report what you say." 

Chapter 11-12

Wise financial planning protects against the capricious disasters of life. It is wise to not become immobilized by the uncertainties of life, but by entrusting them to God to make the most of today’s opportunities of life.

"Ship your grain across the sea;
after many days you may receive a return.
Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;
you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.
Sow your seed in the morning,
and at evening let your hands not be idle,
for you do not know which will succeed,
whether this or that,
or whether both will do equally well."

A Poem on Old Age

Life must be pursued in its brevity with the perspective of its futility and one’s accountability before God. Qoheleth affirms that God is to be considered during the days of one’s vitality or else one will find the certain evil before them to be too overwhelming to think clearly. If one does not consider God while one’s strength is with them, the certain darkness before them will overwhelm them to conclude that all in life is empty.

“You who are young, be happy while you are young,
and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart
and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
God will bring you into judgment.

Remember your Creator
in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say,
‘I find no pleasure in them’—
before the sun and the light
and the moon and the stars grow dark,
and the clouds return after the rain;
when the keepers of the house tremble,
and the strong men stoop,
when the grinders cease because they are few,
and those looking through the windows grow dim;
when the doors to the street are closed
and the sound of grinding fades;
when people rise up at the sound of birds,
but all their songs grow faint;
when people are afraid of heights
and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms
and the grasshopper drags itself along
and desire no longer is stirred.
Then people go to their eternal home
and mourners go about the streets.”

“Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
and the wheel broken at the well,
and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”

The Word-Pictures explained

Stars grow dark = blindness
Clouds return after the rain = frequently needing to relieve oneself
Keepers of the house tremble = shaky legs
Strong men stoop = arthritis
Grinders cease = teeth fall out
Those looking through the windows grow dim = poor eyesight
Sound of grinding fades = deafness
Songs grow faint = deafness
The almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags = youthful beauty fails to arouse the male sexual organ
Silver cord is severed = death
Golden bowl is broken = death
Pitcher is shattered = death
Wheel broken = death
Dust returns to the ground = death and decay of the body

The Conclusion

Although there are many sources for direction in life, God’s wise direction is to fear Him and to follow His word because everyone will be evaluated by these things.

“Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.”

“Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.”

“Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.”

Thursday, March 14, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Ecclesiastes 1-4

Introduction to Ecclesiastes 1-4


Originally called “Qoheleth” in Hebrew. “Qoheleth” means “preacher.” “Ecclesiastes” comes from the Greek Ekklesia, meaning “the assembly” (to whom the preacher preaches). In English, Ekklesia is translated as “church.”


“What is the purpose of life?” The Hebrew word “hevel” appears throughout the book, and is used to describe various aspects of life. It can be translated literally as vapor, smoke, or breath, or metaphorically as something that is illusive, empty, or a delusion. Some translators translate is as “meaningless” and “vanity.”

Chapter 1 

Qoheleth generally and then specifically examines work and wisdom (in a cyclic fashion) to support his thesis that all of life is smoke. There is no advantage to work from earth’s perspective because of the cycles of life which entrap people and because of the lack of fulfillment in doing anything.

“‘Hevel! Hevel!’
says the Teacher.
‘Utterly hevel!
Everything is hevel.’”

“What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one can say,
‘Look! This is something new’?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.”

Qoheleth affirms that by increasing in wisdom he did not find fulfillment, but the emptiness of work, the certainty of design, and the pain of awareness.

Qoheleth, was king over Israel in Jerusalem.”
“I have seen all the things that are done under the sun;
all of them are hevel, a chasing after the wind.”
“For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief.” 

Chapter 2 

In the pursuit of pleasure and hard work Qoheleth found the latter to be preferable, but both to be empty in and of themselves.

“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was hevel, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.”

In examining wisdom and folly Qoheleth affirms that the former (wisdom) is preferable, but not ultimately fulfilling since death is the end of both the fool and the wise.

“I saw that wisdom is better than folly,
just as light is better than darkness.
The wise have eyes in their heads,
while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize
that the same fate overtakes them both.”

Qoheleth concludes that work is empty and life is to be hated because it only leads to grief (evil) in that others may later squander your fruits, therefore, only pain and preoccupation exist from work now. Recognizing that the hand of God is responsible for one’s life, Qoheleth contradicts his former statements and affirms that pleasure and work are both good. The reason one can enjoy life when one sees that God’s hand is involved is because without Him life is meaningless and full of despair.

“So I hated life,
because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me.
All of it is hevel, a chasing after the wind.
I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun,
because I must leave them to the one who comes after me.
And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish?” 

Chapter 3 

Qoheleth affirms that everything, including events and experiences which seem to be contradictory, has an appointed time.

“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”

Although the appointments of life may point to despair in striving, meaning for life may be found if one follows the eternal drive within oneself to recognize God as the giver of life.

“I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the human heart;
yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

Qoheleth affirms that man is forced to turn from himself to God when he realizes that He controls events, is the source of morality and gives any meaning to the equalizer of death.

“God will bring into judgment
both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity,
a time to judge every deed.”

The reason one should be happy in one’s appointed activities is because there is no future beyond them apart from God.

“As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals.
Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals;
the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other.
All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals.
Everything is hevel.
All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.
Who knows if the human spirit rises upward
and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” 

Chapter 4 

When Qoheleth examines the unjust state of oppressors who have power and the helplessness of the oppressed, he concludes that living is the worst of all possible states.

“I saw the tears of the oppressed—
and they have no comforter;
power was on the side of their oppressors—
and they have no comforter.
And I declared that the dead,
who had already died,
are happier than the living,
who are still alive.
But better than both
is the one who has never been born,
who has not seen the evil
that is done under the sun.”

Qoheleth affirms that to be driven in work, especially for oneself, is a great emptiness because people are designed for one another.

“There was a man all alone;
he had neither son nor brother.
There was no end to his toil,
yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
‘For whom am I toiling,’ he asked,
‘and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’
This too is hevel —
a miserable business!”

“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Qoheleth affirms that in view of the shrewdness of youth and the fickleness of people it is empty to depend upon status for security in life. The young replace the old only to be replaced themselves.

Monday, March 11, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Micah 5-7

Readings for this week

Monday: Micah 5
Tuesday: Micah 6
Wednesday: Micah 7
Thursday: Ecclesiastes 1
Friday: Ecclesiastes 2
Saturday: Ecclesiastes 3
Sunday: Ecclesiastes 4

Introduction to Micah 5-7

Micah 5 

Micah then describes the reconciliation of Israel following the judgment and exile of Israel and couples that with a Messianic prophecy:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”
-- Micah 5:2 

Micah 6 

Micah then describes a scene of Israel triumphing over enemies and God destroying both war and idols. He also presents God’s legal case against Israel:

"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God."
-- Micah 6:8 

Micah 7 

Micah then offers praise and calls on the people hope in God:

"Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
You will be faithful to Jacob,
and show love to Abraham,
as you pledged on oath to our ancestors
in days long ago."
-- Micah 7:18-20

Thursday, March 7, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Micah 1-4

Introduction to Micah 1-4

Background of the Book of Micah 

The name Micah is actually a shorter version of the name Micaiah, which means “who is like Yahweh?” Micah’s hometown was Moresheth, which is about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem. The general consensus of scholars is that Micah ministered between 742 and 687 B.C., during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Some scholars argue that Micah’s ministry was strictly during the reign of Hezekiah. 

Biblical References 

Micah 1:1 - “The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah – the vision he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.”

Jeremiah 26:18 - “Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah.” 

Political and Historical Setting 

Judah was in a divided state. Pro-Egyptian and pro-Assyrian parties vied for the attention of Hezekiah. The citizens of Judah were corrupt. 

Micah’s message 

He attacks the ruthless expropriation of the peasant farmer, the dishonesty in the judges and the ruling classes, the idolatry, sapping morale and destroying morality, and the debasement of the priesthood.

He shapes his meaning to address all the current corruption, as well as the false confidence of the people in God’s protection of Judah. 

Extra-Biblical Resources 

Very little known about the prophet Micah. One hypothesis to who the author(s) is(are) is that the first three chapters were definitely written by Micah himself, but most of chapters four through seven were written by another source. 

Micah 1 

The book starts off by saying the LORD came to Micah who had a vision concerning Samaria and Jerusalem. Micah starts warning the people that the LORD will bear witness against them. Micah explains that God is coming down because of the sins of Samaria and Israel. Micah explains that the LORD will make Samaria a “heap of rubble.” Micah weeps and mourns for Samaria. Samaria’s plague of sin is considered “incurable” by Micah and is spreading to Judah and Jerusalem. Micah explains to the people that they need to mourn as well. 

Micah 2 

Micah feels sorry for the people who plan evil and carry out on it. The LORD plans disaster for those people. Those people will no longer walk proudly. They will be ridiculed and the possessions of God’s people will be divided and He will “assign their field to traitors.” Micah explains how false prophets “steal the robe” without care from those who pass by. These prophets drive the women away from their homes. They take away blessings from the children forever. Micah commands them to go away because they have ruined the place in which his people reside.

But the LORD promises deliverance. The LORD says that He will gather all of the people of Jacob and He will bring together the remnant of Israel. He will bring them together “like sheep in a pen, like flock in a pasture.” “The One” who breaks open the way will go up before them. “Their King will pass through before them, the LORD at their head.” 

Micah 3 

Micah says to the “heads” and “judges” of Jacob and Israel that they will receive justice for hating good, loving evil, and destroying Micah’s people. Those people will then call out to the LORD, but He will not answer them. The LORD says to false prophets who have led people astray for their own benefits that they will be ashamed and disgraced. They will cover their faces because there is no answer from God. Micah then says that because of false leaders, Zion will be “plowed like a field,” Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble,” and the Temple Mount will become “overgrown with thickets.” 

Micah 4 

Micah then describes The Mountain of the LORD:

"In the last days
the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
and peoples will stream to it.
Many nations will come and say,
'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.'
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."
-- Micah 4:1-2

Monday, March 4, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Jonah 2-4

Readings for this week

Monday: Jonah 2
Tuesday: Jonah 3
Wednesday: Jonah 4
Thursday: Micah 1
Friday: Micah 2
Saturday: Micah 3
Sunday: Micah 4

Introduction to Jonah 2-4

Chapter 2 

Jonah describes this experience of sinking in the sea and being swallowed by a fish as being swallowed up by “Sheol,” or death itself. But we learn that God is present even in Sheol. 

Jonah’s Prayer to God is very similar to Psalm 139:

“In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit.
“When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.
“Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’” 

After three days, God causes the fish to vomit Jonah up onto dry ground… which is significant if the fish is a symbol of death itself. 

Jesus refers back to this passage in the New Testament when the people demanded a sign form him:

"He answered, 'A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.'"
-- Matthew 12:39-41 

Chapter 3 

God once again calls Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah goes this time and delivers almost a joke of sermon to them, with no real instruction… he just tells them that God will destroy them in 40 days.

But they believed him – and from the lowly to the high, all were repentant. The text says that even the cows repented and wore sackcloth and ashes. 

Chapter 4 

Jonah sits outside Nineveh waiting for God to destroy the city... but nothing happens. Jonah wants some shade, so God causes a large vine to grow up over him. In the morning, God destroys the vine through a worm. Jonah freaks out, and starts whining and complaining and begging God to kill him. God asks him if he has any right to be angry, and Jonah says he does. He’s like, “I knew you would do this! I knew that you would be merciful and forgive them! That’s why I didn’t want to go! I wanted them to die! Kill me now! I’m better off dead than alive!”

God’s Final Word to Jonah:

"But the Lord said, 'You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?'"

Sunday, March 3, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Jonah 1

Introduction to Jonah 1



“Jonah son of Ammitai” - “Jonah” means “Dove,” which represents peace. “Ammitai” means “my truth”

The Prophet Jonah

There is no reference in the Book of Jonah to any event that would help us know what particular time in history the story of Jonah took place, but according to 2nd Kings 14:25 the prophet Jonah lived during the reign of Jeroboam II of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. During the reign of Jeroboam II, there was a lot of political instability. This time period saw the assassinations of rulers and unpredictable foreign policy in Israel. During this time, Israel’s religion was corrupted through Baal worship and idolatry. They looked to Baal as the provider of agricultural productivity and flocks. They would partake in drunkenness, sexual orgies, and child sacrifice in order to benefit from Baal’s “procreative power.” Even Israel’s priests were promoting idolatry in the land.

The Book of Jonah

Jonah lived between 786 and 746 B.C. His reference in 2nd Kings 14:25, which helps to date his ministry. Jonah’s ministry was before the rise of Assyria later in the 8th century under the powerful Tiglath-Pileser III, however, the book was written sometime between 8th century and 3rd century B.C. – well after the life of Jonah. The Book of Jonah assumes Nineveh was a great and wicked city. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria and was destroyed by the Babylonians in 612 B.C. According to the Book, Jonah was sent to Nineveh by God.

The call and rebellion of Jonah 

Israel was under threat from Assyria and its capital of Nineveh. Some theorize that Jonah’s flight is in response to “the specter of the potential destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel at the hands of Nineveh.” The Hebrews were God’s chosen people at the time and it was uncharacteristic of them to follow God’s command to bring in the other nations to Himself. 

Chapter 1 

God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach against the city because of its wickedness. But Jonah flees and goes in the opposite direction from Nineveh. He goes down to Joppa and boards a ship bound for Tarshish - modern day Spain - the edge of the known western world. He goes down below deck to sleep. God intervenes and sends a storm. The crew casts lots to see who is to blame and the lot fell to Jonah. The pagan sailors refuse Jonah’s request to throw him to the sea and instead try to row to land, but fail. Only when they submit to the will of God and throw Jonah overboard is the storm calm. The LORD provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah as he sank down to the depths.