David Grabbe, focusing on the sign of Jonah, asserts that there is much more to it than the timing of three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, debunking the nonsense of a Friday afternoon 'good' Friday to Sunday Morning "Easter" cycle. It appears likely that Jonah may have been literally dead when he was cast into the sea, with the great fish serving as his coffin rather than his domicile for that time. When God then resurrected Jonah, the reluctant prophet preached a powerful message of repentance, leading the entire population of Nineveh to fast and repent, sparing them from destruction. Jonah had fled from his responsibility, opting for self-sacrifice rather than to be used by God for something he considered distasteful, facilitating the future demise of his people. All of us have similarly turned away from God's will for us; it should come as no surprise that God lovingly sends disruptions our way to get us back on His trajectory. Both Jonah and Jesus Christ were prophets of God, preaching repentance and seeing the positive fruits of their preaching. Both Jonah and Christ provoked their own people to jealousy by preaching a message which admitted Gentiles into God's plan of salvation. While Nineveh repented and was spared, Judah did not repent, and consequently witnessed their temple desecrated and destroyed, failing to see that when anyone repents and turns from his evil ways, God relents and forgives.
Richard Ritenbaugh posits that the thesis of the books of Chronicles is that, if one follows the terms of God's Covenant, blessings will accrue, and that, if one does not, curses will ensue. God sternly warned ancient Israel never to make covenants with the people whom He had dispossessed, nor to have anything to do with their sensual gods, but instead they were to destroy and tear down their idols and remove their high places. If Israel would honor the covenant, the people could be absolutely assured that God would richly bless them. God desires to bless and prosper His people. Decidedly, the worst king Judah ever had was Manasseh, the restorer of all the pagan religions, erecting altars to Baal, all the gods of the Zodiac, making groves to Ashera, worshiping the sun, moon, and stars, sacrificing several of his sons to Milchom, seducing Judah to compromise for the sake of political advantage to make alliances with the enemies of God. Traditionally, he is the person responsible for the death of Isaiah. Even though Manasseh was absolutely the worst king ever to lead Judah, shedding more innocent blood than any of his predecessors, leading to the captivity of his people, and of his own humiliating capture, being led around by hooks in his nose, Manasseh finally got the message that God only is God, and sincerely repented. As a result of this repentance, God restored him to his place on the throne of David. Manasseh is testimony that God's grace is astounding in magnanimity; even the worst of sinners can repent and receive God's forgiveness.
John Ritenbaugh, cuing in on three scriptures, Psalm 11:3-5, Luke 12:7, and Philippians 4:19, reflects on a frightening earthquake in 1971, in which he realized that he was in no way in control of the alarming situation, a relentless shaking that threatened to destroy the entire foundation. This earthquake has grounds of comparison to the devastating earthquake which destroyed the very foundation of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), sending the frightened members scrambling for safety. In the demise of our previous fellowship, we are to realize that, as God has His eye on the sparrow, the most timid of all birds, He has had His eye on us through this entire process of scattering, intending that the tests we have endured and weathered have been intended to bring about the best fruit possible. The breaking apart of the WCG has produced many splinter groups which collectively carry on a far greater work than Herbert W. Armstrong ever was able to do, and at a fraction of the cost. The intriguing story of the development of fledging Church of the Great God, a small insignificant splinter group, which has grown to be a major resource site for all the other scattered churches, is just a part of the entire picture. We are admonished to get our attention away from the activities of human beings and onto the activities of God as He neutralizes and destroys Satan's plans and the human surrogates in government, religion, and education who are currently carrying out his plans. The WCG was destroyed because it abandoned its covenant with God, committing spiritual adultery (in point of fact, idolatry) by bringing in poisonous doctrines from the world's religions, denigrating God's Holy Laws, which are a reciprocal expression of love between God and His people. Regardless of the magnitude of the aftershocks of the demise of WCG, God has not abandoned His church and His plans are right on schedule. As God watches over the sparrow, He can protect His people in the midst of any upheaval.
Richard Ritenbaugh, asserting that the history of the United States, compared to the mother country Great Britain, is relatively brief, holds that it is nevertheless well-documented by extremely literate Founding Fathers (Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, etc.), many of whom had a grasp of classical and modern languages. We have a superabundance of their lucid, learned writings in letters, diaries, and official documents, laying bare their goals and aspirations. Sadly, liberal 'progressive' American educators, instead of going back to the primary sources for historical information, create 'redacted,' distorted, hopelessly twisted misinformation, deliberately casting a gloomy shadow on the goals of the Founding Fathers, ridiculing any notion of American exceptionalism. Liberal 'progressive' historians want to focus on blemishes and social problems such as slavery (racism) and women's suffrage (feminism), and imperialism, denigrating any noble and upright motivations our nation may have had. The writings of the founders serve as the foundation for the concept of the American Republic and a Constitution limiting the corrosive power of the Federal government. Historically and spiritually speaking, the beginning of things set the stage for what comes after. Our parents Adam and Eve did not put up much of a struggle resisting sin; unfortunately, we do not either. We are weak and subject to temptation from evil spiritual forces. Thankfully, Almighty God, in the first chapters of Genesis unfurls His plan to call out a spiritual family created in His image. God wants us to learn events, personalities, and principles before they were sullied by subsequent damaging events. As God's called-out ones, we are obligated to follow the lead of our righteous forebears Abraham and Sarah, pursuing righteousness and yielding to God's shaping power. The theme of Psalm 78 is to go back, recalling God's past acts and works, learn the lessons from them, and repent, with the recurring motif: "God acts; Israel rebels; God responds; God
Clyde Finklea reflects that, as Hosea's wife Gomer was unfaithful, so has Israel been unfaithful to Almighty God, practicing idolatry, sexual immorality, child sacrifice, and other abominations. These transgressions led God to scatter Israel, making them slaves of the Assyrians, one of the cruelest of peoples. Even though Gomer proved unfaithful, Hosea still loved her, buying her back from captivity, restoring her as his wife, an act which depicts the loving forgiveness of God. Christians are to love one another as God has loved us and forgive one another as God has forgiven us.
The twelve books of the Minor Prophets are often overlooked, squeezed between the "important" books of the Major Prophets—Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel—and the "vital" four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Richard Ritenbaugh summarizes four more of these brief but intriguing and helpful books: Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah.
The twelve small books at the end of the Old Testament are often overlooked in the shadow of the much longer prophetic books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. However, Richard Ritenbaugh argues that the Minor Prophets contain vital messages for today's Christians facing the time of the end.
More than 65 years have passed since the end of World War II, yet the nations of Europe are still wary of a strong, unified Germany. Richard Ritenbaugh writes that, despite Germany's amicable relationships with its neighbors for two generations, signs of Berlin's growing influence are causing anxiety across Europe and around the world.
The Bible tells us that the time is coming when God will regather His people Israel to the Land of Promise, a greater Exodus than that from the Land of Egypt. David Grabbe gathers the prophecies of this momentous future event, focusing on when it will occur.
Richard Ritenbaugh suggests that religious and cultural differences, especially the raging Western-Islamic conflict, will become the fault lines of dangerous conflicts and clashes of civilizations. The King of the South (Daniel 11:40) might be a confederation of Arab nations continually at war with the people of Israel. Psalm 83 identifies such a confederation that continually harasses Israel'events that appear in today‚s headlines. The Bible's characterization of Ishmael, Esau, Amalek, Moab, and Ammon fit the national traits of present-day, anti-Western Arab peoples. Numerous prophecies (including Nahum, Zephaniah, and Amos) predict the eventual demise of their evil efforts. Throughout history, the Kings of the North and the South, always reckoned from the viewpoint of Jerusalem, have changed identities, but the principal players of the conflict exist today in the bitter conflict between militant Islam fundamentalism and the West.
The northern tribes of Israel, having rejected Davidic rule, chose Jeroboam as their king, and he soon led the Northern Kingdom into apostasy. Charles Whitaker shows that after just over 200 years, Israel fell to Assyria, and it people were taken captive and transported to Media. Judah lasted about a century and a half longer, falling to Babylon in 585 BC.
John Ritenbaugh, focusing upon Matthew 17:13 and clearing up some misconceptions about the resurrected Elijah coming before the arrival of Christ (a mission fulfilled totally by John the Baptist in Christ's time), cautions us to apply duality of prophecy carefully and cautiously rather than indiscriminately. With this admonition in mind, the sermon focuses upon a major world event even secular historians have termed a dramatic axial period, occurring within the sixth century B.C. -a time faithfully described by the prophets beginning with Jeremiah- a time sometimes referred to as the time of the Gentiles- reckoned to be the origin of the present Babylonic system or world order. Paradoxically, this system has been embraced and perpetuated by the modern house of Jacob. A new axial period, beginning with the testimony of the two witnesses, will again turn this world upside down, replacing the present decadent Babylonian system with God's government.
Peter's first sermon took place on the Day of Pentecost, yet his subject seems to 'fit' the Day of Trumpets. Charles Whitaker explains that the fulfillment of Pentecost begins what will be completed in the fulfillment of Trumpets.
Many who believe Germany to be modern Assyria have waited a long time for Germany to rise again. Signs in Europe and on the world scene point in that direction.
John Ritenbaugh asserts that things written in the Old Testament were written entirely for Christians. The operations of both the Old and New Covenants overlap. The differences focus on justification, access to God, and eternal life, but not doing away with the law (especially the Sabbath) which Protestant theologians would have us believe. Modern Christianity, like the mongrelized Samaritan religion, is a syncretized mixture of some biblical truth with unadulterated paganism. To worship God in spirit means to put heart and mind into applying God's law, with a circumcised heart (Philippians 3:3) realizing that the motivating principle behind every one of God's laws is the love of God shed abroad in our hearts through the power of God's Spirit. (Romans 5:1-5)
John Ritenbaugh asserts that it has always been a pattern of Satan to counterfeit celebrations of those true celebrations God has given to us. Both kings Ahaz and Manasseh went headlong into Baal worship, sacrificing their own sons to Baal, giving their flesh to the priests of Baal (origin for the English word "cannibal.") The temple Passover instituted by King Hezekiah in II Chronicles 34 was a very unusual circumstance in which the king in a national emergency centralized the worship (establishing martial law) enabling him to keep track of what the people were doing, stamping out paganism which the religious leaders had allowed to creep in, defiling the meaning of the true Passover. Those who attempt to use this episode as a precedent for a 15th Passover fail to see the true purpose of Hezekiah's emergency measures.
John Ritenbaugh observes that Lamentations 4 contains a series of contrasts, showing the indignities suffered by a once proud and seemingly invincible people reduced to servitude and abject humiliation because of the sin of idolatry, entered into as a result of economic and political alliances - leading to the adoption of abominable pagan religious practices, violating the covenant made between God and His people. The climax to this extended hopeless lament comes in Lamentations 5:16, when a greatly belated admission of guilt and acknowledged responsibility leads to a recognition of God's sovereignty and hope for ultimate restoration.
John Ritenbaugh observes that ancient Israel had at the core of its religion (as well as its dominant cultural norm) an obsession to serve or please the self at the expense of justice and truth and the best interests of the socially disadvantaged. Because of Israel's excessive self-seeking and self-serving pride, God threatens to remove His protection, allowing its people to go into captivity. Pride (the catalyst for Laodiceanism) causes people to reject God and to follow idolatrous ways. Israel's leaders should 1) never be content with the way things are, 2) never let care and concern for self take priority over the welfare of others, 3) covet peace with God, but only on His terms, 4) choose things that are more excellent, and 5) embrace morality.
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 focuses upon the encounter of Jesus with the woman of Samaria, perhaps an exemplification of the entire unconverted world, but also symbolic of a church, initially hardened, self-willed and skeptical when called out of the world, but afterwards zealous and energized when enlightened by the truth. As Jesus revealed Himself to her and exposed the disgusting details of her past, so God does the same thing to us when we are called. As the woman had to be drawn away from false concepts of worship, we must be weaned away from poisonous superstitions and false doctrine polluting our worship of God. Only those who attain the Spirit of God within their inner beings will worship God in spirit and in truth. Spiritual sacrifices include humility, fidelity, and service. As the woman had to be diverted from using the living water for selfish purposes, we must learn to derive satisfaction from serving others, emulating Christ's example of becoming energized by doing the work of God, planting and reaping the spiritual harvest.
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