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Joel 2:28, Various

Pouring Out The Spirit

Joel talks about the future restoration of a repentant people. In Joel 2:28, There will come a day, God says, when “I will pour out my spirit on all people.” The “pouring out” is a fascinating concept. Samuel anointed David as the King of Israel by “pouring” oil over his head. At that moment, David is filled with God’s spirit for the task of leadership. At that same time, the Spirit leaves Saul. Without the Spirit, Saul becomes despondent and depressed and has fits of rage and irrational behavior. David, the one with the Spirit, comes to play music to soothe his ravaged psyche. It’s almost as if there is not enough of the Spirit to go around. But Joel tells us that one day, there will be enough for everyone. The passage goes on to say, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” As an old man, I can verify that we dream dreams, as Joel says. I’ve never had as many dreams as I have in the past year or so. They have not all been good, so I believe that Joel means something different than the kind of dreams I have.

Peter explains that the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost is the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. All Christians, upon coming to faith in Jesus, receive the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit is now freely given to all believers. There is enough for us all. Paul tells Titus that God “saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” (Titus 3:5-6) Lang suggests, “The significance of Joel’s prophecy is that in the Old Testament, the Spirit empowered only a select few people—prophets, military deliverers, and kings. The early Christians saw the Spirit empowering all who put their faith in Christ, fulfilling Joel’s prophecy.”[1]

It is the refreshing rain that the crops need to produce fruit. Isaiah puts it this way, “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.”  With the pouring out of God’s Spirit, the ground is refreshed, and it produces fruit. With Christ as our Savior, God pours out his Spirit on us also. The refreshment of the Spirit brings forth fruit in our lives. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

[1] Lang, J. Stephen. 1999. 1,001 Things You Always Wanted to Know about the Holy Spirit. Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

Joel 2:21-25, Various

Rejoice In The Lord!

Joel calls the people to rend their hearts rather than their garments and to return to the God who loves them, and He will multiply His blessings upon them. If they respond accordingly, God will turn His judgment into His blessings. God is a gracious and merciful God ready to forgive and restore at any moment. Because this is the kind of God we worship, Joel says in Joel 2:21-23, “Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the LORD has done great things! …Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God.”

When Paul said, in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord,” he was not coining a new phrase. He was simply quoting an Old Testament command that appears in Psalm 32, Psalm 64, Psalm 104, and here in Joel 2. The Hebrew word for rejoice has as its root meaning to shine or be bright. So, the exhortation to rejoice means to “brighten up.” Put on your happy face! Smile! Lift up your countenance. Why? Joel goes on to speak for God in 2:25. We should rejoice and be happy and smile and brighten up after repentance and turn back to God because God says, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,  my great army, which I sent among you.”

It took Michelangelo 5 years of lying on his back to produce his masterpiece on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Within a century, no one remembered the bright, brilliant colors of the original work. In 1936, another painter, using a special solution, cleaned the frescoes for the first time. No one had imagined that beneath centuries of grime lay such vibrant colors. The complete restoration of the Sistine Chapel was completed in December of 1989. The result was breathtaking. For the first time in 500 years, people viewed the masterpiece the way it was intended, with all the color and beauty. This is what God does for the repentant soul. Jeremiah 30:17 says, “For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the LORD.”

Ephesians 6:2-3

Live Long And Prosper

Only the good die young! We’ve heard that a thousand times. It’s a very popular saying, and Billy Joel made a million dollars on a song by the same name! Whenever we see someone die before his expected time, we often say that.  Does that mean that those who live to be a ripe old age are not good? The Bible says differently. The patriarchs all lived to “ripe old age.” Furthermore, one of the Ten Commandments promises that children will live long if they honor their parents. Some argue that the Commandment, as recorded in Exodus doesn’t refer to a physical long life, but rather to a long occupancy of the land that God was personally giving to Israel. I wouldn’t deny the truth of that promise, yet the focus on this Commandment, along with the associated promise, was repeated in Deuteronomy 5:16 with a focus on individual lives. It reads, “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” Paul further uses the Deuteronomy passage and implies the promise is one of long physical life. Ephesians 6:2-3 says, “Honor your father and mother. That is the first commandment that has a promise. Then things will go well with you. You will live a long time on the earth.”

It’s heartbreaking to see someone die at a young age. I think of miscarriages that don’t get to see life. Abortion stops a life before it’s even begun. Kids are all good in God’s eyes. There are adults that die before their time that are good also. But the natural order is to live a long life. Whereas the good often do die young, the good more often live a long, healthy, productive, and happy lives. Even Spock knows that one of the most profound blessings that can be pronounced on someone is to “live long and prosper.” It is a true honor and privilege to see your children’s children and even more to see your children’s children’s children.  Through all the pain and suffering that Job endured, the final verses record God’s blessings on his life. It says, “And after this Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, four generations.  And Job died, an old man, and full of days” (Job 42:16-17)

It is not easy for some to honor their fathers because of their history. Some fathers have not been all that they should have been. Some have even maliciously harmed their children and have so alienated them that there is little if any, hope for reconciliation.  Yet, the Bible tells us to honor our parents. It doesn’t say that they deserve it.  The three biblical reasons for honoring Fathers have nothing to do with the worthiness of the parent.  We should honor our earthly father because it’s the right thing to do (Ephesians 6:1). Colossians adds another good reason: “for this pleases the Lord” (Colossians 3:20). But the reason that God gives in the Commandment itself is that honoring our parents serves our own best interests in the long run. Even though God’s greater purposes sometimes bring about untimely deaths of good people, anyone who wants to live long and prosper should take advantage of this special weekend to honor their father regardless of their perceived worthiness.

Romans 5:12, Genesis 3

“Adam, Where Are You”?

This weekend, we’ll be celebrating Father’s Day.  It comes after Mother’s Day. That’s so the bills for Mother’s Day will arrive just in time for Father’s Day. A small boy’s definition: “Father’s Day is just like Mother’s Day, only you don’t spend as much on the present.” In my collection of illustrations for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I find that there are way more jokes about fathers than about mothers. Mothers are honored more, while fathers are exhorted more.  Everywhere I look, I find fathers being exhorted and challenged to be better fathers in all the facets that entails. I’ve been troubled about it more than once. I think I’ve found the answer! It’s simple: men “ARE” responsible. This will sound very sexist. I don’t care!

In Romans Chapter 5, Paul contrasts Adam, the first man and the father of all humanity with Jesus Christ, who he calls the second Adam, the founder and father of a new humanity. In verse 12, he says, “Therefore just as through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world and death through sin …” If we would just consider the implications of this verse with reference to Fathers in General, I think we’d see a certain responsibility for the act of rebellion that condemned all his ancestors to death.  Further, even though Eve was the one, Satan picked to tempt with the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and even though she was the first one to eat of the tree, that didn’t make any difference to God in Genesis 3, nor to Paul in Romans 5. God and Paul both hold the man responsible for the rebellion. In Genesis 3:9, we read, “The LORD God called the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He didn’t call the couple. He called Adam. The responsibility was his. And when Paul talks about how sin entered the world and how we are all now sinners because of that first sin, he looks straight to Adam and not to Eve as the responsible one. Men have a spiritual obligation that cannot be passed on to others.

This has been demonstrated over and over again in studies on the Family and spirituality.  According to a reliable and popular study, we find that if both your parents worshipped with you regularly while you were growing up, there’s an 80 percent likelihood that you’ll worship God regularly as an adult. If only your mother worshipped regularly with you, there’s only a 30 percent probability that you’ll worship regularly as an adult. If only your father worshipped regularly with you, the likelihood that you’ll worship regularly as an adult increases to 70 percent!  Fathers have an enormous impact on their children’s faith and values. One of a father’s most important ministries is worshipping with their kids! Yet, in the church (including mine), there are more women in attendance, more serving, and more in most ministries. I think God is still asking, “Adam, where are you?”

 

Joel 2:13, Malachi 3:7

Return To Me!

My favorite verse from the book of Joel, from the Old Testament, is 2:13. To understand it fully, you must understand the context. Joel points out the sin of Israel in that they have turned from worshipping the one true God to serving the gods of the peoples in the land. Thus, the curses of Deuteronomy 28 and following are about to fall upon them. He uses the powerful image of a plague of locusts that devastate the land at the time of harvest to picture the destruction that will fall upon the entire nation at the hands of their northern enemies. This destruction that’s coming is the result of God’s judgment on his people. But Joel calls them to repent. It’s not too late. He says, “Yet even now, declares the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”

Ezekiel teaches us that God takes no delight in judging the wicked. Rather, He longs to extend grace and forgiveness to all. The only requirement is a “broken heart.” Rending of one’s clothing was an external display of grief, sorrow, regret, and remorse. To “rend your heart” signified inward, spiritual repentance and sorrow for sin. God’s primary requirement from sinners is given in Psalm 51:17. It says, “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” Ogilvie says, “One moving experience of reading the Bible in Hebrew is to see the word repent used both of people and of God and to realize that this word is used more often of God’s response to people than of people’s response to God. The word implies a complete change of direction or change of mind. When we turn from disobedience and return to the Lord, He changes His mind and direction from judgment to blessing. In this sense, the will of God is not immutable. He has given us the awesome responsibility of choice and takes our choices seriously, responding accordingly.”

The message I like most of all is the part that tells me it’s not too late. I have a print (19.95 on Amazon) of Rembrandt’s “Prodigal,” which pictures the repentant son returning from the faraway land where he squandered what he had been given by the father on sin and riotous living. Worn and haggard, He is on his knees before the father. The father is welcoming him home with open arms. The prodigal son waited until there were no more resources for him to squander before returning to the father. He expected just to be a servant in his father’s house, but his father would have none of that and welcomed him home as the son that he was. It wasn’t too late for him, and it wasn’t even too late for the thief on the cross. He only said a couple of things. He said that Jesus was innocent, and he and the other thief were getting what they deserved. Then, he asked Jesus to remember him when He entered into His kingdom. Jesus said, “It’s not too late for you. Today, you will be with me in my kingdom of Paradise.” The father of the prodigal son never gave up on his wayward son. God never gave up on the thief on the cross. God never gave up on his people, Israel either. He’ll never give up on you or me, either. Malachi reminds us, “Return to Me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts.” Malachi 3:7

 

 

1 Samuel 10:1

The Coronation

Chapter Ten of 1 Samuel begins with Saul’s being anointed as King by the prophet. We read, “Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, “Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of the Lord, and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies. And this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you to be prince over his heritage.” When Samuel anoints Saul as king of Israel, he performs three rituals. First, he anoints his head with oil containing spices. Next, he kisses him on the cheek. Finally, he pronounces him as the “king who will reign over the people of the Lord and will save them from the hand of their enemy.” After the anointing and the kiss, Samuel asked the question, “Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people, Israel?” The correct answer, of course, is “Yes!” Although Samuel was the human instrument, God was the one who chose him.

The King of Israel served as the savior of the People. There are even references that point out Israel’s King was, to me, the “anointed” one. The Messiah of the people would be the King of The Jews. We know that the ultimate Messiah would come through the line of the second King, King David. From the house of David would come the savior of the world, in keeping with how this passage establishes the procedure observed in Saul’s coronation. We see it repeated with Jesus. Even though Jesus was rejected as God’s chosen deliverer at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the events of that week reveal God’s intentions. Jesus was anointed as King with all three rituals. In Bethany, his head was anointed with oil containing fragrant spices. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas kissed him on the cheek and called him “Lord.” Pilate had a sign hung up on the cross announcing in three languages that this is “The King of the Jews.”

God is the one who chooses and anoints! In the New Testament, we read that Jesus was the anointed one. That’s what Messiah, or Christ, means. Jesus was the one God chose to save his people from their enemy. Unfortunately, Israel wanted their Messiah to deliver them from their earthly enemies. God had a greater salvation in mind. The greatest enemy of us all: Death!  Although the woman, Judas, and Pilate had no idea what they were doing, God was behind it all, accomplishing his purposes in His only begotten son. “For God so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.”

1 Samuel 9:2

Richard Cory’s Problem

In chapter 9 of 1 Samuel, we are introduced to Israel’s first king. This is what we learn about him: “There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward, he was taller than any of the people.” Tall, dark (probably), and handsome! Suited to be the national hero in every way. We also know that Kish, his father, is a man of great wealth, so we can add “rich” to the description. He becomes Israel’s first king, so we can also add “famous” to the description. What a way to start out life! He had it all.

We, the common people of the world, will often look at Hollywood celebrities or sports idols as having it all. They have big houses, cars, and bank accounts. The news media always want to know what they think about current issues. I’m not sure what qualifies someone who acts to have profound insights into political issues, but we like to hear what they think. They have everything. King Saul seemed to have it all, also.

We often look at the rich, attractive, and famous people as having everything while we have little. But everyone is born with the absolute same chance of happiness and contentment in life. Tall, dark, handsome, rich, and famous add nothing to our prospects. As a matter of fact, they often cause the most pain and misery. I’ve always loved E. A Robinson’s poem, Richard Cory.

WHENEVER Richard Cory went downtown,

We people on the pavement looked at him:

He was a gentleman from sole to crown,

Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,

And he was always human when he talked;

But still he fluttered pulses when he said,

“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich,—yes, richer than a king,—

And admirably schooled in every grace:

In fine, we thought that he was everything

To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,

And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;

And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,

Went home and put a bullet through his head.

I can think of many during my lifetime that did what Richard Corey did. There’s Marilyn Monroe. No other woman had what she had. There was the original Superman, George Reeves. There were many others that took the Richard Corey road. Saul, After his many character failures, disobedience to God, and attempts to murder David, Saul ends his own life with his own sword. I think Ben Franklin said, “Contentment makes poor men rich while discontent makes rich men poor.”

1 Samuel 8:10, Various

Getting What I Want

Israel finds itself in a world with nations all around them. These nations have kings. They have relationships with those around them and they have the ability to mobilize for war quickly. So, Israel clamors for their own King. Samuel, God’s Prophet, explains the consequences of having a King: High taxes, drafting sons and daughters into government service, taking fields and crops for support of a lavish lifestyle, etc. But the nation either doesn’t care and is willing to pay that price, or they just won’t listen. They insist on becoming like the nations around them. Samuel further warns them that when this oppression becomes too severe for you and you cry out for help from God, “but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” All you’ll get from me and God is, “I told you so.” Psalm 106, verse 15, in the King James Translation, says, “And He (God) gave them their request, but sent leanness into their souls.”  This was specifically referring to Israel’s demand for meat to eat rather than the manna.

Our daily life sometimes seems like we are just getting manna to eat over and over again. It gets boring after a while. Imagine having nothing but manna to eat for 40 years! Be quiet and eat your gruel! I think God wants us to learn contentment in all of our circumstances in life. When Paul wrote his famous passage to the Philippians, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” he was not talking about winning a football game. He was talking about being content in all circumstances of life, even being in prison unjustly. My life often feels like 40 years of “manna.” I can live with that, trusting God to work out his own good plans for me. If we insist on having something we want, God just might give it to us and bring leanness into our souls. We can be confident that when God doesn’t answer our prayers, He has a good reason. Since He knows the future, and we don’t, we should trust His decisions. When he doesn’t give us what we want, it’s often because we don’t actually know what is really good for us. He does! The next time you feel down because you didn’t get what you want, sit tight and be happy because God is thinking of something better to give you. By the way, God doesn’t just give us gruel to eat. At mealtime, I thank God for filling the world with color and giving me eyes. I thank Him for filling the world with music and giving me ears. I thank him for filling the world with good things to eat and giving me the ability to enjoy it. If we’re honest, we have much more in our lives in Christ than just manna!

Courson adds an exhortation to his comments on this idea. He writes, “Be careful, dear saint, what you insist upon, for it could have disastrous results. Unless you are in the center of God’s will, the desire of your heart could lead to leanness in your soul (Psalm 106:15). We make so many mistakes by complaining and griping and murmuring about what God is doing in our lives. And sometimes the Father says, ‘If that’s what you want, have your way.’ Saints, go with the flow of what God is doing. Yes, offer your requests, but always in submission to the perfect will of God.”[1]

[1] Courson, Jon. 2005. Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: Volume One: Genesis–Job. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

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