Category Archives: Jesus on Every Page

Leviticus: Be Holy For God Is Holy

LEVITICUS
is a book about
HOLINESS
in which God provides
ATONEMENT.

The Book of Leviticus: God’s Holiness

Leviticus is named for its relation to the Levites, and most of its commands pertain to the priesthood, especially commands about atonement for sin, which is the subject of about half the book.
In Exodus, one of the most important phrases in the Old Testament is introduced: “I am the Lord.” In Leviticus, God says his nature is essentially holy (20:7-8, 21:8, etc.). In the ESV, the word “holy” is used 91 times in Book of Leviticus.
He is also the Lord who sanctifies or makes us holy (20:8; 21:8, 23; 22:9, 16; see also Ex. 31:13; Ezek. 20:12, 37:28, etc.). This is a key concept in Leviticus, repeated five times: “Be holy, for I am holy” (11:44-45, etc.). God’s holiness informs us about what it means for us to be holy, and God’s holiness is the reason that he provides atonement for us. This is the attribute of God most clearly on display in Leviticus, and nearly every passage in Leviticus can be seen through this lens.

Plain Teaching on Sin (ch. 1-7)

These commandments about sacrifice are filled with specific truth about sin and guilt. There is no need to seek any allegorical meaning in them, when they teach plain truths about sin and sacrifice:
1) We learn the difference between sins and trespasses (Ps. 19:12-13). There are sins that are obvious to us, but there are also sins that we commit unknowingly (4:2). 1 John 1:9 says that if we confess our (known) sin, he will cleanse us from all unrighteousness (which would include unknown sin).
2) We learn the difference between personal sin, public sin, and priestly sin (4:13, 22, 27). If I cheat my neighbor, that is my own sin. But Nehemiah acknowledged, for example, that the people had sinned corporately, and corporate repentance was required.
The sin of priests and leaders is also treated differently. Ministers and teachers of the Gospel carry more responsibility because of their consecration, and this even affects the way their families are treated.
3) We learn from Aaron’s four sons that there are sins of commission and omission. Just as Nadab and Abihu sinned by offering fire “which the Lord had not commanded” (10:1), Eleazar and Ithamar sinned by neglecting to eat the sacrifice as commanded priesthood(10:18).

Plain Teaching on Priesthood and Sacrifice (ch. 8-10, ch. 21-22)

The tabernacle is established in the Book of the Exodus, and the  is established in this book. In Leviticus, we have plain teaching about the meaning of sacrifice—not only that God requires our best, or that he requires blood, but beyond that, we learn:
1) Sacrifice required confession (4:15, 5:5, 16:21). The purpose of placing hands on the animal was to confess guilt in its presence. Likewise, the sacrifice of Christ has no effect if we do not admit our guiltiness.
2) Sacrifice required consecration (ch. 8-10). Not everyone can make a sacrifice, but only a priest can make atonement under the Old Covenant (4:35, 5:16, etc.). But now the Lord requires consecration from all his children, and we are all priests in the new order (Heb. 7:11, 1 Pet. 2:5).
3) Sacrifice required cleanness. It is not undertaken flippantly (10:1), or in any place, or at any time (16:2). But under the New Covenant we learn that God seeks those who worship him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). It is not just clean hands but “a pure heart” that the Lord desires (Ps. 24:4).

Holiness and Cleanliness (ch. 11-15)

All the rituals involving food, skin diseases, etc. may be seen as involving cleanliness, and may or may not involve the guilt of sin. The commandments about food (ch. 11) are practical and interesting. (Winkie Pratney says, if you break these commands, you won’t necessarily go to Hell, but you will feel like Hell.)
Before the New Covenant was established, the Lord frequently required healed lepers to abide by Leviticus 14 in presenting themselves to the priests.
Leviticus 13 and 14 are dedicated to the separation of those with contagious skin disorders from the crowd of the camp.
The idea that these diseases were transferred through physical contact, and not by some other mystical means, has suffered a lack of acceptance, even recently, even in the educated West. At the height of his career, Joseph Lister was criticized and laughed at in his early career for his ideas about cleanliness and antiseptics in hospitals; in his old age, Queen Victoria made him a baron and a royal counselor; now, he is known as the “Father of Modern Surgery.”

Day of Atonement (ch. 16)

The Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, is at the center of the Book of Leviticus, and it is central to the whole practice of making atonement. This is neither the same as the daily sacrifices, nor is it “business as usual.” We see this in 1) the rarity of the occasion, which was annual (v. 2, 29); 2) the entry of the Holy of Holies, which was not allowed at other times (v. 2); 3) the special release of the scapegoat, which is mentioned nowhere else in the Bible.
The meaning of the scapegoat is up for debate, but the custom is clear enough: In addition to the commands laid out in this passage—namely, confession over this goat—the high priest tied a scarlet thread to the goat, representing guilt, before sending him away. In later years, rather than merely releasing it, the man charged with the duty would push the goat off of a precipice, and wave a signal to people stationed nearby that the atonement ritual was complete. Regardless, it represents a distancing from sin (Ps. 103:12), God not counting our sins against us (Ps. 32:1-2, Rom. 4:7-8).

General Commands (ch. 17-20)

It is no coincidence that sex is mentioned so prominently (ch. 18) in a book about holiness and atonement; sexual immorality is the quickest path to deceive yourself and destroy your family, and must be taken seriously (Heb 13:4).
This section contains what Jesus called the second most important commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (19:18). Thomas Fuller, a Puritan author, had a fascinating insight on this verse in connection with the Sermon on the Mount: “Many things pass to be in Scripture, when no such matter is to be found therein. ‘Ye have heard it said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.”’ (Mt. 5:43) But where is it said, ‘Thou shalt hate thine enemy’? Surely nowhere in God’s Word.”[1]

Feasts, Sabbaths and the Year of Jubilee (ch. 23-25, 27)

Note especially how the Feasts of Passover and Booths have been fulfilled in Christ’s death, and Pentecost, respectively (Mt. 26:2, 1 Cor. 5:7, etc.). (It’s important to know that Pentecost is simply the Greek name for the Feast of Booths.)
The Year of Jubilee (ch. 25) ensures justice and provide balances to the economic system; most interestingly, debt is freely forgiven, while in our modern system it simply accumulates unchecked.

Covenant and Consequences (ch. 26)

In Leviticus 26, God outlines consequences if Israel should fail to keep her side of the Covenant. This chapter shows that for believers, God will progressively try any means to get their attention, so that they will return to him (v. 3, 14, 18, 21, 23, 27; see also Deut. 28). But God promises in spite of this that he will bless and help them “if they confess their iniquity” (v. 40), and he could never forget or break his end of the covenant (v. 43-44).
This important section of the Pentateuch is what is referenced by Jeremiah and Daniel when they say that the punishments of the covenant have fallen on Israel (Dan. 9:10-14, Lam. 2:17). The complaints of other prophets of the exile period also prove that this Scripture was being fulfilled in their day (Hag. 2:16-17).

Study Recommendations

Written in Blood by Robert E. Coleman is a readable, well-studied devotional on the meaning of Jesus’ blood.
Andrew Murray published two books of sermons on Jesus’ blood: The Power of the Blood of Jesus and The Blood of the Cross.


[1] Concerning Christ’s Temptations.

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Haggai: Work Is for Fellowship

HAGGAI
is a book about
WORK
in which God
DWELLS.

The Messenger and His Audience

Haggai is unique in that his audience is primarily just two people: Zerubbabel, the governor, and Joshua, the high priest. Both of them participate in this revival in a personal way (1:12, 14), receive personal words from God, and special promises. (See Ezra 5:1-2, Hag. 2:21-23, Zech. 3:1-10, 4:9-10, etc.) The only verse specifically directed at the public is 1:13: “I am with you, says the Lord.”
Haggai’s message is intimately related to the Books of Zechariah and Ezra. (See Ezra 5:1.) Zechariah and Haggai’s prophecies dovetail in confirmation of each other, and the people prosper through their prophesying (Ezra 6:14).

Haggai’s Message: Realignment of Priorities

Haggai’s primary spiritual message was one of priorities, and its primary application was that is it is time to work. Five times God commands them to “consider” (1:4, 1:7, 2:15, 2:18). It is easier to live selfishly; righteousness requires that we turn off autopilot mode and examine our priorities.
When we experience spiritual revival, it leads to a realignment of priorities. The first way this seems to happen is in the area of work. Haggai’s hearers were invited to invest time. Building the Lord’s temple would require some sacrifice of the time that they spent on their own affairs.
The second result of revival is in our finances. Haggai’s hearers were challenged to contribute materially (1:8, 2:8). Our time and money go towards what we value. Whenever there is repentance, spiritual renewal translates into an active response in these two ways.

Why Build?

“‘Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,’ says the Lord.” (1:8) God commands the Israelites to build “that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified.” This twofold purpose reminds us of the Westminster Catechism: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” We build because God says “I am with you” (1:13, 2:5).
When God ordered the building of the Tabernacle, the reason was “so that I may dwell among you.” But now God says he is already among them, and they needed to acknowledge and prepare for his presence.
When God asks us to commit to the work of ministry, it is never to receive justification or atone for guilt; it is always for his pleasure and because he is worthy of glory. Work is for fellowship.

The House of the Lord

The temple is not “a house for the Lord” but “the house of the Lord.” It is a holy place belonging to him that he might reveal himself to his people; it is not a place for a tribal god to live. They did not rebuild the temple so that God could dwell among them; they rebuilt the temple because God was dwelling among them. “Work . . . for I am with you” (2:4).
In the New Covenant, God’s preeminent dwelling place is his people. A church building is never called the house of God in the New Testament. As Solomon said, “Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain you!” (1 Kings 8:27, NKJV) But it is also written: “You [plural] are God’s temple” (1 Cor. 3:16). Building God’s house for us means prioritizing our time and money for spiritual ministry. (See also: Christ’s Body Is the Temple.)

Special Promises

“The heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit” (1:10, KJV). God hearkens back to his covenant promises in Deuteronomy 7:13 and Leviticus 26:4. Abundant crops are specifically promised for Israel if they obey the covenant; drought and lack are promised if they disobey.
The promise is not universal, and it is not the same as karma—it is a specific way that God proves himself to his covenant nation (Lev. 26:9). In Haggai, God is trying every economic expedient to get the attention of believers, because they should know better. However, he promises specifically that this will turn around from the date of the foundation of the temple (2:18-19, Lev. 26:40-42).
In the Old and New Testaments, God never commits himself to a law of always returning good for righteousness and evil for wickedness. In his great wisdom and faithfulness, he can allow suffering on the righteous (e.g. Job), or mercy for the wicked (e.g. Saul). He sends his sun and rain on the righteous and the wicked, because he is perfect (Matt. 5:45); and the wind and storms come to both, whether our foundation is built on the sand or the rock (Matt. 7:24-27).

The Latter Glory

Haggai says the latter glory will exceed the former glory (2:9). This is immediately about the temple but also relates to the Messianic kingdom to come. The “shaking of all nations” and the “desire of all nations” relate to the future period when Israel becomes the center of the Messiah’s earthly kingdom. (The “desire of nations” is often thought to mean Jesus, but from the context, it seems to refer to the wealth that will be brought to Jerusalem, as in Zechariah 14:14.)
Victory over the Gentiles is also one of the promises of this time period. (See 2:20-23)

Shares themes with: Ezra, Nehemiah, Zechariah.

Jonah: God’s Heart for the Nations

JONAH
is a story about
MISSIONS
in which God is
MERCIFUL.

God’s Mercy: The Theme of Jonah’s Book

Missions is but one manifestation of God’s mercy. God shows his mercy in Jonah’s book by sending Jonah and saving the sailors (ch. 1), in saving Jonah from the storm (ch. 2), in using Jonah’s message and saving Nineveh (ch. 3), and in soothing Jonah (ch. 4). The entire book is a manifestation of God’s mercy.

Jonah’s book is unique among the Prophets because his story includes both the prophecy and the response. Only a small portion of his book is strictly prophetic, and that is his message to Nineveh.

“There’s a wideness in God’s mercy” begins a hymn by F. W. Faber. Jonah is set up as a foil (or a contrast) to God’s perfect mercy—towards the sailors, towards Nineveh, and towards the prophet himself. “The selfish unbelief and vindictiveness of man is contrasted with the gracious patience and benevolence of God.”1

The humor of the book is a large part of its appeal. The sailors and Ninevites receive God’s message eagerly, but God’s ordained prophet gives it reluctantly. He is the most self-effacing prophet of the Old Testament, and he accomplishes the bare minimum of righteousness. Yet Jonah uses humor to deal with serious needs that are universal to Christian life.

Jonah’s Flight

Comparing Jonah with John the Baptist (John 1:6), S. D. Gordon writes, “All men are sent. But they don’t all come, some go. There was a man sent from God whose name was Jonah. But he didn’t come. He went.”2

The reason for Jonah’s flight to Tarshish is explained by G. Campbell Morgan: “The book of Jonah is a prophetic story indicating the inclusiveness of the Divine government for Nineveh as well as Israel; and rebuking the exclusiveness of the Hebrew nation as manifested in the prophet himself.”3 Even today ethnocentrism is one of the largest barriers to missions. We are often glad to see someone else go, but feel in our hearts that we would never do so ourselves because we do not love other nations, and do not desire their salvation.

Jonah’s Song of Repentance

As always, the believer who flees from the Lord then seeks God “out of his distress” (2:2). “Out of the belly of Sheol I cried” (2:2). Thus Jonah compares his underwater hideaway to the grave itself. By taking him to the depths of death, God chose to make Jonah a sign of resurrection.

His song concludes: “Salvation belongs to the LORD!” (2:9) Then the sea-creature spits him out. By this God-wrought salvation, Jonah proclaimed death and resurrection(Matthew 12:39-40), both to Nineveh and to future generations.

Jonah’s Sermon of Repentance

Alexander Whyte summarizes thus: “The prophet Jonah was both the elder son and the unmerciful servant of the Old Testament.”4 The key is that he did not rejoice at the mercy received by others; as Christians, we should rejoice when God pours mercy on any other nation. We should never have any nation written off in our mind, as if God could not or would not grant mercy to those people, or they would not receive it.

Jesus gave credit to the Ninevites, saying that Jonah’s generation of Nineveh would rise in judgment against Jesus’ generation of Jews that had rejected him (Matthew 12:41). In this way, Jesus asserted that Jews could live stubbornly unrepentant while Gentiles could be righteous with God by faith.

Jonah’s Depression

Finally, after all the lessons that God has taught him, Jonah still shows resentment, in spite of his correct view of God! (4:2) However, Whyte writes that Jonah must have repented and written the book “in sackcloth and ashes”5 as he learned that God’s mercy was not to be hoarded. Through the repeated dealings of God, he must have learned God’s intended lesson, for no one else could have shared the story. May God teach us this same great truth.

The book ends with God’s glorious expression of mercy. “And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” (4:11)

Study Recommendations

Many books and Bible studies show that God’s plan has always included all nations. A few that come to mind are Eternity in Their Hearts by Don Richardson, Missions in the Age of the Spirit by John York and Mission in the Old Testament by Walter Kaiser.

1 Herbert Lockyer. All the Books and Chapters of the Bible, pp. 203-4. Zondervan, 1966.

2 S. D. Gordon. Quiet Talks on John’s Gospel, Locations 585-586. Kindle Edition.

3 G. Campbell Morgan. Voices of Twelve Hebrew Prophets, p. 12.

4 Alexander Whyte. Concise Bible Characters, p. 301. AMG Publishers.

5 Ibid.

Ezekiel: A Prophecy of God’s Glory

EZEKIEL
is a book about
GLORY
in which God is
GOD.

“God is God, and I am not”
– Winkie Pratney says that the above statement can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars of theological education.
– This summarizes Ezekiel’s preaching and prophecy, as well as the reason for his evident hope in the midst of judgment; the statement “I am the LORDis repeated in his prophecy some 92 times by my count!
– While God is always God, we don’t always know it or act like it; thus, in Ezekiel the objective of God’s activity is that people would “know that I am the LORD.” (5:13, etc.) A change must take place in us, and God must take His place as glorified Lord in our lives.

Ezekiel: Prophet of Holiness
Holiness is Ezekiel’s concern as both priest and prophet. More than other prophets, his book focuses on ritual holiness that Israel lacked.
– In ch. 1, Ezekiel has the vision of God’s glory that leads seamlessly to his great responsibility as prophet (ch. 2-3, 33, also cf. Isaiah 6.)
– As A.W. Pink said, “God is sovereign, and man is responsible”; these twin ideas exemplify Ezekiel’s focus on both God’s holiness and man’s obligation. The two ideas are constantly and completely connected.

Israel: A Holy Nation,
– Ez. 2 to 24 focuses on prophecies of judgment against Israel. God’s anger is placed in the context of his choice of Israel and Jerusalem as the epicenter of His self-revelation (5:5-8), and the weight of such a rejection (16:47).
– The Jewish captivity (ch. 3) and the fall of Jerusalem in 588/587 BC (see 33:21) provide the historical backdrop against which God spoke through Ezekiel in judgment of the nation that had forgotten him.

Glory: “For My Name’s Sake”
– Jeremiah deals with God’s judgments in terms of what God feels—grief; Ezekiel deals with God’s judgments in terms of what God wants—glory.
– For Ezekiel, judgment contains a revelation of God—often God says that when they are chastised, “they will know that I am the LORD.” Yet even this revelation is not for their sake, but “for [his] name’s sake” (20:9, 36:22, etc.)

Glory: The Importance of God’s Presence
– Ezekiel’s book begins and ends with the glory of the LORD, as does the book of Revelation. The presence and intimacy of God finally cherished among his holy people is the ultimate fulfillment of all biblical prophecy (Ez. 48:35, Rev. 21:11, 21:23, 22:4).
– In the narrative, God’s glory departing (ch. 8-10), and later returning to a new Israel (43-44), form the most central images in the entire narrative.
Glory (Heb. kabod=weight, honor, importance) in the OT is related to God’s physical manifestation 45 times; Kittel calls it “the force of His self-manifestation,” or “that which makes God impressive to man.”

Pride: Rebelling Against God’s Glory
– Ezekiel deals with Israel’s wicked elders at length (ch. 8, 11, 14, 20), as well as false prophets (13), selfish “shepherds” (34), and laments for Israel’s princes (19). He deals with pride in high places quite extensively.
– Ezekiel also prophesies against wicked Gentile leaders in ch. 29, 32, 38, and 39. This reaches its apex in ch. 28 with the prince of Tyre, a kind of spiritual carbon copy of Satan in his original calling and rebellion. Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14 give us the most biblical insight into the independent spirit—which is what made Satan into Satan.

Making Israel Homesick
– In ch. 20, the Lord hearkens to Israel’s history in detail, recounting the story of the exodus. As with Jeremiah and Hosea, broken covenant is the background for both judgment and renewal (Ez. 16 & 23, Dt. 31:16ff).
– God’s covenant with the nation of Israel in Ex. 19 involved a new land, a dwelling-place for God, and a calling to holiness (Ex. 19:3-6, Ez. 20); inasmuch as Israel had persistently violated its calling, God did not want to dwell among them (Ez. 11:23, Dt. 32:30) or keep them in the land he had promised (Lev. 26:15ff, note v. 33).
– For these covenant promises to be renewed, Israel would have to remember the covenant and live holy (Ez. 11:17-25, 36:16-38, Lev 26:40-45).

Millennium: Israel Restored
– Ez. 36-48 especially concerns the restoration of Israel; the regathering of their nation has begun in our time, but it is obvious that the wars (38-39), restored temple (40-42), worship (43-46) and land (47-48) are yet future.
– New Jerusalem has no death (Rev 21:4, cf. Ez. 42:13) and no temple (Rev. 21:22), so this leads most to think that Ezekiel 40-48 was not describing the new heaven and new earth. Rather, comparison with similar passages (Isaiah 66, Rev. 20) bears witness that this is the longest prophecy about the Millennium in the entire Bible.

Book Recommendations:
Two books that I highly recommend on the person and character of God are Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer, The Nature and Character of God by Winkie Pratney. Tozer’s book is devotional, while Pratney’s book is an accessible manual to key concepts about who God is and what he is like.

Winkie Pratney also deals with many themes relevant to the study of Ezekiel in the 21CR Conference, Session 5 (“The Chief End of Man”). For more material specific to Ezekiel, see my general recommendations.

Key Passages:
The (manifest) glory: ch. 1, 8:2-4, 9:3a, 10:4, 10:18, 11:23, 43:2-6, 44:2-4
Covenant renewal: 16:60-62, 37:26
The land of Israel: 20:42, 28:25-26, 37:15-28
Dwelling/sanctuary defiled: 23:38, 36:17
Dwelling/sanctuary cleansed: 37:23,27-28, 48:35
Purpose of judgment: 35:11, 39:21-23
Purpose of the temple vision: 43:6-11, (also 44:6-8, 45:9)
See also separate page on “I am the LORD” in Ezekiel.

Habakkuk: A Book about Faith

HABAKKUK
is a book about
FAITH
in which God is
FAITHFUL.

Background of Habakkuk

Habakkuk, like Jonah, is a personal narrative; his struggle, though, is internal, and so the story takes the form of a conversation between God and the prophet. Unlike Jonah, Habakkuk grows in his faith in God through the course of the book. The prophet begins by questioning God (1:2), and ends in inexplicable joy and triumphant faith (3:17-19). “The story of Habakkuk is that of a movement from the experience of doubt and questioning, to that of certainty and praise” (Morgan1).

The date of Habakkuk must precede Babylon’s invasion of Jerusalem (612BC), since this is yet future during the book. This means he was probably a near-contemporary of Jeremiah and Zephaniah.

Habakkuk’s Question: How Long, God?

Several Bible books deal with faith and doubt, but the content of Habakkuk’s doubt is unique: God’s justice. “Justice never goes forth2” (1:4). Most prophets view God’s justice as perfect and forthcoming, however distant. (Compare, for example, Nahum.) Even though Habakkuk is a prophet, he lacks understanding about God’s plan for his time. Specifically, he cries out about injustice and violence in Judah (1:2-4). Then, God answers that he will send the Chaldeans as a chastisement against Judah (1:5-11), but Habakkuk finds this even more appalling. He again questions God about using the wicked Chaldeans against wicked (but chosen) Israel (1:12-17). It does not fit in with what he thought he knew about God. After all these questions, the major shift in the book comes when Habakkuk determines to wait for a clear answer from God to resolve his inward debate.

Habakkuk’s Watch: Waiting on God

The solution for Habakkuk is to wait; “I will take my stand at my watchpost … and look out to see what he will say to me” (2:1). God’s response (2:2-20) is summarized in one shining assurance: “the righteous shall live by his faith.” (2:4) The righteous will live; that is, they have eternal life, but the proud will not. They will live by faith; trust in God is what enables them to receive eternal life. Despite Habakkuk’s doubt, God leads him to this assurance of God’s future justice, which will outlast any injustice in his day. God has never lied, and the vision that he has given

The rest of this oracle speaks of coming judgment against idol worshippers. God reassures Habakkuk that, even though he will use Babylon (or Chaldea) against Judah, he will also hold Babylon to account. Although “destruction and violence” are present realities (1:3), there is a time coming when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (2:14). A. W. Tozer says it this way: “the resurrection and the judgment will demonstrate before all worlds who won and who lost. We can wait.3

The oracle ends with yet another encouragement to wait and trust: “But the LORDis in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” (2:20). A modern re-statement of this is “God’s still on his throne.” Habakkuk had to recognize and trust the government of God not in history, but in his own lifetime.

Habakkuk’s Worship: “Yet I Will Rejoice”

With the prophet’s doubt clearly resolved, the third chapter is a song of Habakkuk’s faith. Habakkuk recites, in song, a past victory that God brought for Israel as a basis for faith in future victory: “I have heard the report of you, and your work, O LORD… In the midst of the years revive it” (3:2). The specifics of the song—plague (v. 5), water miracles (v. 15), and geographical details—all point to the Exodus and the birth of Israel as the story which Habakkuk is celebrating in psalm. Likewise God’s unfulfilled promises are known to be certain by his perfect record; the past gives us faith for the future.

The conclusion of the book is exultant praise, rising “to heights of faith which even David did not attain with all his music4.” Job refuses to curse God; but Habakkuk declares boldly that he will rejoice in the Lord even if all his livelihood and material possessions are taken away. This is the highest faith in the lowest depth. Chambers5points out, “faith is trust in a God Whose ways I do not know, but Whose character I do know.”

Book Recommendations

Andrew Murray has a devotional book called Waiting on God, emphasizing the importance of waiting in all aspects of Christian life.

If you are doubting God’s work in the world or your life, Christian biographies such as Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot can restore a right view of God’s timing and his triumphant use of tragedy.

Compare themes with: Job, Lamentations.

Contemporaries include: Jeremiah, Zephaniah.
_________

1 Morgan, G. Campbell. Living Messages. “Habakkuk.”

2 All Scriptures quoted are ESV.

3 Tozer, A. W.  Born After Midnight.

4 Parker, Joseph. The People’s Bible, vol. 17: Hosea to Malachi. p. 332.

5 Chambers, Oswald. Shade of His Hand.

Micah: A Prophecy of God as Ruler

MICAH
is a book about
TRUE AND FALSE AUTHORITY
in which God is
RULER.

The God of Micah

Micah’s book opens by describing a terrible theophany. But this God is not an unconcerned Sovereign; he is Israel’s Leader (2:13), Judge (4:3), Ruler (4:7, 5:2) and Shepherd (7:14, cf. 2:12). He is the sender of true leaders and prophets (6:4-5, Jeremiah 26:5). False leadership is condemned throughout Micah’s prophecy, but the final death-knell on oppression awaits the coming of the true Ruler (ch. 4-5).

Sin in High Places (ch. 1-2)

Micah came from the village of Moresheth (1:1). He prophesied against numerous cities in Israel, calling them by name. He mocks them using numerous puns and wordplays in 1:10-15.

Captivity is no coincidence, but a result of sin and idolatry (1:16). The people are called upon to interpret current events through the character of God. The subjugation of Israel by pagan nations was no coincidence, but was promised in Leviticus for breaking God’s covenant of obedience (Lev. 26:17, 33, 38-39). The prophet Jeremiah cites Micah as preceding him and possibly saving his life (Jer. 26).

Throughout Micah, the places of false leadership and influence are condemned (3:9). Joseph Parker comments that Jesus Christ “differs from all modern teachers in that he finds the wickedness of society in its high places.”1 Rather than associating crime with poverty, the Bible tends to do the opposite: over and over God casts his judgment over the rich, the educated, the religious, and the affluent.

Abuse of Authority (ch. 3)

What does Micah mean that they “build with blood” (3:10)? He is talking about money made through hidden crimes. Prostitution was used to fund pagan temples in Micah’s day (1:7). Micah condemns bribery among officials, and simony among spiritual leaders (3:11, 7:3). Named after Simon the sorcerer in Acts, the sin of simony means performing acts of ministry in exchange for money. In the Middle Ages, corruption of priests was rampant; John Wycliffe of England and John Hus of Bohemia were martyred in part for speaking against it. The prophet Micah likewise risked much by speaking against those who were propping up such a corrupt system.

G. Campbell Morgan writes: “The message of Micah centered on the subject of authority. The prophet arraigns and condemns the authority of those who had departed from the true standards of government, whether the princes, prophets, or priests; and foretold the coming of the true Ruler, under whom all false confidences would be destroyed and the true order restored.”2

Deliverance and the Deliverer (ch. 4-5)

Micah 4 and 5 concern “the last days” (4:1). In Morgan’s notes on Micah, he says that chapter 4 concerns the deliverance to come, but chapter 5 concerns the Deliverer.3 Micah 4 presents a vision of “the mountain of the house of the LORD.” War will be ended on Earth (5:4).

The final deliverance of Israel will not be easily brought about. Micah prophesies that it will involve labor pains (4:9, 5:3), a metaphor that Jesus continues to use to describe the end times. False leadership always uses kind words, but has a mean end in mind (2:6); the God of the Bible forewarns us of coming trouble, but he always has good in mind (4:7, 7:20).

The Deliverer is described in Micah 5. Like Micah, he will come from a little-known village. Final justice means an end to all false worship. Jesus “shall be great to the ends of the earth” (5:4).

What Does God Require? (ch. 6)

Micah reminds Israel of God’s past actions: he had redeemed them from Egypt (6:4); he had sent righteous leadership (6:4); he had refused to repudiate them despite Balak’s efforts (6:5). “From Shittim to Gilgal” (6:5) is especially significant: Shittim was a place where Israel joined in idolatry (Num. 25:1), and Gilgal was where God renewed his covenant with them by circumcision (Joshua 5). This points to the renewal that God would bring Israel if they would repent.

Micah 6 is the crux of the book and perhaps the best explanation of idolatry in the Old Testament. Idolatry involves not only an incorrect view of God, but an ineffective way of approaching him. The God of the Bible is the only god that cannot be bought. No sacrifice is enough to secure his favor (6:6-7).

Instead, God asks for the repentance and faith. “He has shown us what is good: to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (6:8). God does not ask what is easy: to bring material goods or sacrifices. He asks what is hard: the surrender of self. “The surrendered life is the foundation of surrendered possessions. Ourselves first, then our offerings.”4

Conclusion (ch. 7)

Micah concludes as it began, with a vision of God: “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance?” (7:18) This vision of God’s character is Micah’s reason for believing in the forgiveness of sin as well as the deliverance from captivity that will come.

There is no higher conclusion than this simple appeal to who God is. A right vision of God will bring right worship of God, and a right approach to God. He has not only told us what is good; he has shown us what is good, and we should imitate the open and generous ways of our King and Shepherd.

________

1 Joseph Parker. The Minor Prophets (vol. 21 of The People’s Bible). Kindle edition. Locations 3915-3916.

2 G. Campbell Morgan. Exposition of the Whole Bible. Accessed on studylight.org, Oct. 12, 2015. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gcm/view.cgi?bk=32&ch=5

3 Ibid.

4 Herbert Lockyer, The Christ of Christmas. Kindle edition. Location 604.

Ezra: A Story about Revival

EZRA
is a book about
REVIVAL
in which God is
RESTORER.

God the Restorer
– Centering in Ezra and Nehemiah, the Jews experience a restoration of almost every aspect of life you can name: their temple, worship, godly marriage—in Nehemiah, their capital—and in more recent history, their nation and language. It is God who “makes all things new.” (Rev. 21:5)
– In fulfillment of a prophetic word, “the LORD stirred” first Cyrus the pagan king, and then many others who would return and rebuild the temple. The temple is the center of Ezra’s story and represents a rebuilding from nothing of the religious life of an entire nation.

Ezra the Scribe: No Revival Without Reformation
– Since Ezra was a scholar of God’s law, he makes many references to other Old Testament books, including forgotten commandments that were beginning to be followed again (e.g., 7:10).
– “It is the rediscovery of these cardinal doctrines that has led to revival.” (Lloyd-Jones)

Ezra the Scribe: Starting Small
– Almost every chapter of Ezra contains a list, letter, or numerical account, since he was a scribe.
– Fundamental to revival is the worth of the individual to God; Francis Schaeffer put it this way: “there are no little people; there are no little places.”

Praying Big
– All of the Scriptural stories of revival, including Ezra’s, involve national awakenings with global implications.
– The vision of any revival should always be bigger than the revival itself.

Responding to Opposition
– In 4:16, the enemies of this revival show that they see its weighty implications.
– Opposition should encourage us that we are doing something powerful.

Return to Unity & Worship
– Uncommon unity (3:1, 10:12) and uncommon prayer (8:23) are the two activities that Pratney says always mark revival.
– Ezra’s repentance and confession (chs. 9 and 10) on behalf of his nation brought them face to face with their sin against a holy God.

Revival is Newfound Obedience
– Finney’s definition of revival is “newfound obedience to God.”
– The key idea in revival is that we begin to take responsibility for both our walk with God and those around us.
“Arise, for this… is your responsibility… Be of good courage, and do it.” (10:4)

Book Recommendations:
While there is a wealth of material on the history of revival in general, I recommend starting with Winkie Pratney’s book Revival.
On the inner workings of revival, I recommend Finney’s Lectures on Revival as well as his autobiography.

References in Ezra:
Jeremiah (Ezra 1:1)
Moses (3:2, 6:8)
David (3:10)
Haggai (5:1, 6:14)
Zechariah (5:1, 6:14)

Revival Language in Ezra (NKJV):
“…the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia…” 1:1
“Then…with all whose spirits God had moved…” 1:5
“Then the heads of the fathers’ houses…arose to go up and build…” 1:5
“Now these are the people…who returned to Jerusalem…” 2:1
“Then Jeshua…and Zerubbabel…arose and built the altar…” 3:2
“Now…Zerubbabel…and the rest…began work…” 3:8
“So Zerubbabel…and Jeshua…rose up and began to build the house of God…” 5:2
“And the descendants…kept the Passover…” 6:19
“And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread…” 6:22
“…for the LORD… turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them…” 6:22
“Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it” 7:10
“Whatever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it diligently be done…” 7:23
“So I was encouraged…” 7:28
“…grace has been [shown] from the LORD…that our God may enlighten our eyes and give us a measure of revival in our bondage.” 9:8
“…Yet our God…extended mercy to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to reviveus, to repair the house of our God, to rebuild its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.” 9:9
“…and let it be done according to the law.” 10:3
“Now therefore, make confession to the LORD… and do His will…” 10:11