Ronny Graham, reflecting on the extent the sins of our forebears have affected us, focuses on a rather enigmatic incident in II Samuel 21:1-6, when David was prevailed upon to turn over seven descendants of Saul to be executed, in retribution for Saul's genocidal treatment of the Gibeonites. To be sure, the Gibeonites had deceived Joshua in making a covenant, and the consequences for the Gibeonites did not in the long run turn out well. Today, modern Israel is inviting a curse by not implementing public policies which would ensure the cultural assimilation of aliens. It is vital that God's people inquire of God before making major decisions. God's called-out ones have no way of knowing what their ancestors did in the past to escape a family curse. In the context of Exodus 20:5-6, we learn that, when we yield to Almighty God, He no longer holds us accountable for the misdeeds of our ancestors, and that God's mercy and lovingkindness accrue to those who love Him and keep His commandments.
Martin Collins, relating a message from a member in Cape Town, South Africa, that the entire city could run out of water by April, alerts us that other cities, such as San Paulo, Lima, Mexico City, Melbourne, and Kabul could soon experience the same curse. As a result of sustained drought in these diverse areas, potable water is disappearing. Concomitantly, peoples' self-centered, carnal attitudes have begun to surface as stress mounts from the stringent enforcement of rigorous rationing regulations. Drought has perennially been evidence of God's displeasure toward people who have blatantly forsaken Him for false gods. If we have God's Holy Spirit flowing in us, we can take heart that the curse of drought will end as God accomplishes His purpose and people forsake their sins.
Every Christian longs for the return of Jesus Christ, and we search for fulfillments of the signs signaling that wonderful prophetic event. The seemingly rapid increase in natural disasters and heavenly spectacles can excite us to a fever pitch. Richard Ritenbaugh cautions that we need make sure that our understanding and interpretation of such signs align with what the Bible says about them.
Ronny Graham, acknowledging that very few prophecies have occurred the way any of us had speculated, advocates that we take a balanced, far less dogmatic approach to prophecy, realizing, of course, that a full one-third of the Bible is prophecy, the majority of which has not yet been revealed, much less fulfilled. One prophecy which seems to be rapidly unfolding before us in the recent years is the one in Isaiah 3:12, warning of children as our oppressors and women as our rulers. During the past year, assessing the mayhem from the riots in Ferguson, Baltimore, and Cleveland, we acknowledge the oppressors to be mere youths, born into families in which the fathers have run away or have been driven out. Mothers of criminal youths cannot believe "why their babies have been shot." The liberal media characterize young shoplifters and thieves as 'protestors.' Tragically, in the black community 7 out of 10 youths do not have a father; 72% have been born out of wedlock. In the meantime, weak-willed and compromising men have abandoned their leadership roles in government and the church, and radical feminist women have rushed in to fill the void created by this 'leadership drain.' In our nation today, gangs (unsupervised young boys and , increasingly, girls) are responsible for 50% of all crimes, and the frustrated police are rapidly losing control. Political parties quarrel on trivial issues, and only a fraction of the current political leaders want to trust and acknowledge God for anything. Anyone with eyes and a modicum of common sense can see the prophecy of Isaiah 3:12 unfold before us.
The prophecies of the Minor Prophets are frequently overlooked, and Joel's prophecy—a slim three-chapter book—is no exception. Mike Fuhrer contends that church members are likely to misunderstand the literal meaning of the prophecy of Joel 2, in which God's mighty army sweeps across the countryside and into the city without serious opposition.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the holiness movement of the 19th century which led to the emergence of Pentecostal and charismatic congregations, persuasions which have engulfed one-fourth of the entirety of Christian denominations and 8% of the world's population, warns that "Pentecostalism," with its emphasis on the emotions, the intuitive, the sensational as being more important than the intellectual, meditative, and reflective, carries some serious dangers to a true believer. When examining the early ministry of the prophet Elijah, it seems that he had succumbed to a kind of emotional, self-centered, charismatic "Pentecostal" mindset, petulantly assuming God would provide a cornucopia of miracles for him. Elijah really felt on top of his game after God consumed his sacrifice in the contest with the prophets of Baal, indicating (to Elijah) that God would intervene at his will and desire. Elijah needed to learn that God was in charge of the relationship, not the other way around. Our forebears on the Sinai were stiff-necked, imposing their will on God, practicing wrong-doing to see if God were watching, acting carelessly (presumptuously), assuming God was duty-bound to take care of them, all the while twisting God's word to suit their plans. Elijah evidently was up-ended by Jezebel's threatening response, and felt a compulsion to run for his life, drifting ultimately into a near-catatonic depression, evidently indifferent to God's intervention and protection. God is more interested in quietness and meekness than in bombastic displays of power.
Martin Collins, continuing the series on the awakening of guilt in Joseph brothers, focuses on a message by Rabbi Daniel Lapin, who proclaimed that Moses never just said, "Let my people go" The second part of this request was "that they can worship God in the desert." Egypt has long served as a metaphor of sin and bondage. We all have our personal Egypt which could be defined as anything that holds us in bondage or abject servitude. We have to learn to rely on God to get us out of strait and difficult situations, realizing that God may want to develop some backbone and intestinal fortitude in us to mature spiritually, but most importantly to yield to the sovereign God of the Universe, who has our best interests at heart. As Joseph's brothers had to be subjected to three patterns of necessity: (1) nature, (2) the tyranny of man, and (3) circumstances beyond their control, we need to stop trusting in our own savvy and street smarts, but instead turn the controls over to God, realizing that as Joseph's brothers and father matured through these intense gut-wrenching, terrifying trials, we also can escape the most dire circumstances by placing ourselves under God's control.
Martin Collins alerts us that the Obama Administration is allowing the Nestle Company to bottle up our precious supply of water out of the Great Lakes and send it to China. This fact is startling in the wake of the knowledge that the water level of the Great Lakes is at an all-time low. Lake Powell is in danger of drying up. Eleven major cities, mostly in the far west, are in danger of running out of water. Drought—or the threat of drought—has been a perennial curse for disobedience to God's laws. God promises protection to His people in the midst of drought. He guides us continually, not sporadically.
Talk of "global warming" and "climate change" fill the airwaves and the Internet, but real drought has hit parts of America and Israel with devastating effects. David Grabbe analyzes the deepening crisis, focusing on depleting reserves, unreasonable allocation, and possible man-made remedies.
Martin Collins, reflecting on the weariness people feel about the disgusting financial crisis bungled by Congress, directs our attention to even a graver crisis, the tragic decline of clean drinking water around the world, caused by drought and pollution, causing an increase in water-borne diseases. Water shortages are more critical than oil shortages. Mexico City is sinking at a rate of 9 centimeters per year because of drawing water of the ground. In Europe, all rivers have an unhealthy concentrate of nitrates. Six major reasons why pure drinking water has been disappearing are (1) the demand outstrips the supply, (2) salty oceans, (3) excessive irrigation, (4) pollution (5) green technologies, and (6) government neglect. The two parallel crises today have as major contributory causes greed and moral decadence.
For centuries, Christians have anticipated the coming of the end-time Great Tribulation, prophesied by Jesus in Matthew 24. However, Charles Whitaker describes a historical great tribulation, comparing it to what has happened in the United States since the 1930s.
Large areas of the American Southeast are suffering under hundred-year drought conditions, and particularly hard hit is northern Georgia. Richard Ritenbaugh shows that God often used the lack of rain as a warning to Israel that they had strayed from Him.
Richard Ritenbaugh observes that most people living in modern, Western culture better identify with flawed heroes, rather than perfect heroes. King David, for example, made huge errors in judgment and committed colossal sins. Ezekiel 18:19-20 indicates that guilt for sin is not transferable, but the consequences can often touch several generations. Saul, after having disqualified himself from being king, sought to ingratiate himself with God by killing Canaanites, including an unrecorded massacre of Gibeonites. Later, during a wasting famine, David, attempting a political rather than a righteous solution, yielded to the Gibeonites' request that descendants of Saul be hanged to avenge the slaughter. That the famine continued indicates God displeasure with David's decision and inner motives. As Christians living amidst spiritual famine, we dare not compromise with the culture around us.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh: Secular Americans snicker at insurance policies that refer to hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and other natural disasters as "acts of God," when they, in their scientific arrogance, prefer to call them "acts of nature" or "weather events." ...
David C. Grabbe: If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it? (Amos 3:6) ...
Just about half of the continental United States suffers under severe drought conditions. And lack of water is not the only thing we need to worry about. Richard Ritenbaugh warns that such "acts of God" should make us take note.
Directing his comments to teenagers and young people, John Ritenbaugh focuses on the epidemic of Adolescent Invincibility Disorder Syndrome, an affliction in which young people foolishly imagine themselves to be invincible and impervious to harm. Young people in the church must realize that not only is God's law no respecter of persons, but also sanctification can be lost. Young people must aim at self-mastery and self-discipline, developing patience, thinking ahead to the consequences of behavior. God's law proscribes death for a young person who curses his parents, and being cut off from God's divine guidance has just as deadly a consequence. Young people need to cultivate early the habit of remembering God, embracing His law as their code of life.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh: Behaviors have consequences. ...
Richard Ritenbaugh reiterates that the Two Witnesses seem to have carte blanche authority from God to annihilate those who interfere with their work as well as power over weather patterns and natural elements in the spirit, power, and manner of Elijah and Moses. These miracles dramatize just how far mankind has turned from God. The lack or pollution of water signifies the lack or the defilement of God's Holy Spirit. The pattern of two witnesses (God often works in pairs) was established as a precedent from the very beginning (Genesis 1:26; Deuteronomy 19:15), and is repeated many times throughout the scriptures.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh: A few weeks have passed since the wall-to-wall coverage of the devastating fires in Colorado and Arizona. ...
In this in-depth examination of globalism, Charles Whitaker sees it as a force to bring about widespread dispersions of peoples before the end to bring about "the time of Jacob's trouble."
Dew is a creation of God that He uses several times in His Word. Ronny Graham illustrates how this symbolism applies to us today.
The scarcity of potable water will become a factor as the end nears. Martin Collins shows how world consumption of water is setting us up for major conflict over this precious resource.
Modern Israel is heavily dependent on its ability to produce food, but recent reports reveal just how unstable agriculture is. Bible prophecy predicts that famine will be part of the end-time scenario.
The book of Amos is an astounding prophecy, closely paralleling the conditions in modern Israel today. This first part deals with introductory materials, Israel's covenant responsibilities, God's judgment and how unrighteousness affects society.
Sometimes, we get down because we think that all our labors for God have gone unnoticed. Elijah did, and his story points out a major lesson we all would do well to heed today.
Satan and his demons regard us as invaders of their first estate, and have consequently have engaged us in a fierce spiritual battle to destroy our relationship with God and His purpose for us to be born into His Family. We fight our battle in the mind, in the subtle thought processes (II Corinthians 10:5). We need to be aware of Satan's modus operandi, including the stratagem of disinformation (subtle, plausible lies) spread through false ministers (wolves in sheep's clothing; Matthew 7:15), teaching the smooth, broad way to destruction, encouraging spiritual fornication and eventual enslavement to sin. The apostle John encourages us to test the spirits (I John 4:1-3), making sure that belief and practice are carefully aligned.
The dry weather across the American West in 1992 made fire and famine a real possiblity. God often uses drought and fire to show His displeasure.
In this study, John Ritenbaugh teaches us that Abraham's iron clad faith was developed incrementally as a result of calculating or "adding it all up," matching the promises of God (perceiving His overall intent) with the current situation, realizing from his ongoing relationship with God, that it was impossible for Him to lie. We learn from Abraham's experience to trust God even when we have incomplete data. We learn from Abraham's experience, that when we attempt to take the expedient way out (embracing a carnal or worldly solution), we will run into grave difficulties- forcing us back to the fundamentals of faith. As descendents of Abraham, we must learn to trust God, forming an on-going relationship with Him, realizing that God's ways and the world's ways do not mix.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the false religions embraced by the descendants of Jacob are not preparing God's people for the harsh punishment God will surely bring to modern Israel. Amos indicts rampant dishonest practices in modern Israel, placing dishonest gain above honesty, morality, or ethics, and arrogantly and covetously exploiting the needy for profit. Competition-eat or be eaten- becomes the dominant business ethic in modern Israel. Amos suggests that a major contributory cause of natural disasters (earthquakes, drought, famines, and floods) is the epidemic of immorality omnipresent in the land of Jacob (totally neutralizing the otherwise positive effects of prosperity and technology)Prophecy should serve as a prod or motivation to prepare appropriately for the future, zealously guarding the truth against a counterfeit (politically active or influential) syncretistic pagan religion [patterned after the manner of Jeroboam I], safeguarding against an impending famine of the word. God will demolish this satanic religious-political system, re-gathering a repentant bruised and battered remnant of His people.
John Ritenbaugh, expanding on God's swearing by His Holiness, adds that when God looks upon people who call themselves by His name, He expects to see certain family characteristics- exemplified by holiness, purity, and morality. Amos indicated that God could not identify these characteristics in people appropriating His name. God's called out ones are obligated to avoid defilement from any source whatsoever, taking special care not to mix God's truth with worldly tradition and rank paganism, forming a syncretistic religion. Amos, using the unflattering image of cows of Bashan, censures the women of Israel (normally the safeguard for the family morality) for abandoning morality, living exclusively for pleasure, materialism, and self-centeredness (often at the expense of the poor and needy), while practicing devoutly a form of syncretistic religion. God, through His prophets, warns that God (with a motive of love) will chasten His people with increasing severity until they repent and begin to reflect His characteristics.
John Ritenbaugh warns us that the book of Amos is specifically addressed to us- the end time church (the Israel of God) - the ones who have actually made the new covenant with God. Having made the covenant, we must remember that (1) privilege brings peril- the closer one draws to God, the closer will be the scrutiny, (2) we can't rest on past history or laurels, and (3) we (the ones who have consciously made the covenant with God) must take this message personally. Absolutely fair in His judgment, God judges Gentile and Israelite according to the level of moral understanding He has given them. No human being can escape the obligation to be human, as God has intended — treating other fellow human beings humanely (not as things or objects of profit). Edom's perpetual nursing of anger (harboring bitterness and hatred continually) against Israel is especially abhorrent to Almighty God- a candidate for the unpardonable sin.