Bill Onisick, holding a cluster of grapes which had prematurely dried because of a fungus infection, laments that this blight could have been stopped by proactive maintenance rather than reactive maintenance. In Proverbs 24, we read an allegorical portrayal of a vineyard gone to ruin by neglect and laziness. Poverty and destruction are the products of neglect. Preventative maintenance will help us whether we deal with physical or spiritual problems. Ingesting too much junk food, especially food heavily laden with sugar, shortens an otherwise healthy life, making us susceptible to diabetes and other degenerative diseases. Spiritually, if we neglect our daily regime of prayer, Bible Study, and meditation, we stunt our spiritual growth. Daily maintenance requires a rooting out (through repentance) of debilitating sins. If we live in the flesh rather than drink in God's Holy Spirit, we will wither. Now is the time to engage in preventative maintenance, building walls of protection, pulling up nettles, breaking up fallow ground, and sowing seeds of agape love, not only in preparing for the Holy Days, but throughout our entire spiritual pilgrimage.
Joe Baity, insisting that borders and boundaries are essential, claims that America's border problems pale into insignificance when compared to those of Europe, where Muslim Jihadi terrorists have flooded the landscape. More important than any national border is the hedge God has placed around His people on the condition that they trust and obey Him. Even as God promised protection to the remnant who remained in Jerusalem in Jeremiah's day if it would trust God rather than seek aid in Egypt, God has promised His called-out ones protection if they stay within the boundaries prescribed by His holy law. We must remember that our fight is spiritual and cannot be helped by anything in the physical realm. God controls everything but our will; we must exercise character by trusting Him for our protection.
Joseph Baity, reflecting on the fiasco of last week's electronic malfunction, threatening to destroy a successful transmission of services, observes that although each factor in the breakdown could have been successfully dealt with individually, a perfect storm of many glitches made the system vulnerable and exposed. Like the Apollo I disaster in which a freak fire consumed the lives of three astronauts, all the eventualities had been supposedly tested and retested ad-infinitum with no reason to suspect anything potentially foreboding. Colonel Frank Borman concluded that the real cause of the disaster was "failure of the imagination" on the part of all involved. Likewise in our Christian lives, we are admonished to think carefully, considering all our ways and the potential effects of ignoring the instructions of God's Law. We live in an era in which God, slowly but surely, is removing His protective hedge from physical Israel, a venue in which we live and work. If we try to conceal our sins, God will forcefully expose our nakedness and shame. We should never trust in eternal security , but fully use the cognitive abilities God has given us, as well as His implanted Holy Spirit, to carefully examine who and what we are, especially in our unique place in history. If we fail to do this, we are flying blind, oblivious to the potential perils around us. Do we know God? Can we see Him? We need to deal with our weaknesses before we are painfully exposed to the world and each other.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting upon the architecture of banks and cathedrals, edifices designed to inspire trust and security because of their massive appearances, maintains that their very construction was intended to leave a deep psychological impact within us, appealing to our personal safety needs. In the world in which we live, subtle influences seek to continually shape us; our mental state is influenced by our environment, seeking to move us in a direction away from the influence of God. Immediately after the serpent entered the Garden of Eden, everything changed from God-centered to self-centered. The negative influences of Satan's society are difficult to combat. The immature are influenced by the immature; the immoral are influenced by the immoral. Homosexuality, gay marriages, and other perversions seem to be gaining ascendancy as God has apparently removed the protective hedge around our people. A return of the days of Noah cannot be far off. To God, everything matters.
Charles Whitaker, focusing upon the proclamations of two Gentile kings (Cyrus and Artaxerxes) in the book of Ezra, examines the impact they had on the remnant of Israel- as well as the lessons we may derive from their lack luster behavior. Those who returned to Jerusalem did not completely fulfill their commission, failing to completely rebuild the walls and failing to totally rebuild the temple. These people lacked resolve and stamina. Sadly the re-establishment of the God's law, educational system, and civil system- (a theocracy governed by God's laws) was embarked upon with less than optimal results because they refused to expunge the Babylonian system from their culture and separate themselves from the pagan customs around them- assimilating (through intermarriage) the religious culture around them, including the Sabbath defying business practices, and sports events. The wall serves a symbol of the separation of God's people from pagan culture ' a partition between sin and righteousness ' a special sanctification. Unfortunately the lack-luster effort aborted this sanctification process. We dare not emulate their foolishness.
John Ritenbaugh admonishes that amidst the erosion of doctrine in truth from the Gentile culture of moral relativism, we must, after the manner of Jeremiah and Nehemiah, build a wall, be a wall, and summon the courage to stand in the gap. We must stay focused in our thinking, girding up the loins of our minds, submitting to the will of God, realizing that in these perilous times we will be hated by the many. Conforming to God will set us apart, sanctify us, separating us from the world, making us a virtual wall. Our determination will determine the strength or the durability of this wall. Building a wall requires standing, holding firm, showing alertness and a readiness for action- even if it requires self-denial and unpleasant dirty work, ultimately aspiring to know God, living as He lives, cleansing ourselves from filth and becoming holy.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the imagery in Revelation 12:16 of the torrent or flood spewed out from Satan's mouth, depicts the torrent of misinformation and lies, causing anxiety and confusion. Like the scattering of the church, the greater nation of Israel will be compromised with Satan's torrent of misinformation. In the wake of this misinformation barrage and the corruption of doctrine, we in the diaspora or scattering, after the manner of Ezra and Nehemiah, must commence rebuilding the collapsed walls of doctrine and truth, providing protection for God's church. God and His ministering angels provide a wall of protection for us, but we must assist in the building of our wall of holiness by yielding to and obeying God. Like Jeremiah, we must become a part of that wall.
Our physical bodies, like the walled cities of ancient times, has a defense system to keep out invaders. Spiritually, how well do we maintain our defenses against error and contamination? John Ritenbaugh urges us to listen diligently to God's Word for true nourishment.
The Bible uses agriculture to provide many lessons for us. Are we learning them—or are we repeating history as Israel did?
God has often used micro metaphors to illustrate macro events. For example, in Isaiah 1:4-6, God compares the whole nation of Israel to a sick patient with an incurable disease, signalling impending captivity. The church has been alternately compared to a bride, vine, virgin, woman, mother, and body. Extrapolating from these metaphors, the condition of the greater church of God resembles a patient languishing from a deadly disease like cancer. This condition has resulted from a diet of spiritual junk food (the philosophies and traditions of the world) and abstinence from the life-sustaining bread of life (John 6:63). The words we "eat" create a faith that forms the walls of our belief system?a kind of spiritual immune system, protecting it from disease. Good health, then, is not merely a matter of diet, but an entire interactive process of prayer, study, obedience, and conformity to God's purpose for our lives.
Dew is a creation of God that He uses several times in His Word. Ronny Graham illustrates how this symbolism applies to us today.
A wall is a defense against undesirable forces gaining entrance to what is inside it. Spiritually, we need walls to keep Satan's world out of our lives.
John Ritenbaugh, after a thorough analysis of the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, concludes that the seven conditions described (all having a common denominator an admonition to hold fast to something once given, but slipping away- namely the faith once delivered - Jude 3) are both sequential and contemporaneous, applying to groups now extant as well as individuals within the groups. All of us have these conditions within us to one degree or another. The scattering of the churches was an act of love by Almighty God to wake us up out of our passive, lethargic, faithless condition. The antidote to this splitting and scattering is to make the feeding of the flock our top priority, in which all the body, not just the ministry, participates to nurture one another, encouraging each other to return to the faith once delivered.
John Ritenbaugh admonishes the greater church of God that we make a conscious effort to feed the flock (devoting more effort, time, energy, and money than for preaching the Gospel as a witness for the world) until we get ourselves straightened out first. To preach to the world and ignore a disintegrating flock is like a husband and wife paying attention to people and things outside the home while the family is falling apart. We need to examine the causes for our split and our gravely deteriorating faith. Our emphasis must be on feeding the flock, restoring the faith once delivered, rebuilding the broken walls and repairing the breaches.
John Ritenbaugh affirms that the New Covenant seals the agreement with the body and blood of Christ, which is consumed inwardly. Partaking of this cup indicates that we are in unity with those in the body—fellow heirs of the world, as Abraham's seed, participating in the death and resurrection of our Savior. We must thoroughly examine ourselves, exercising and strengthening our faith, actively giving love back to God, to avoid taking this solemn event in a careless, irreverent, or nonchalant manner, jeopardizing our relationship with God, our relationship with our brethren, and our Christian liberty.
What does God see in Israel that so affronts Him that He has to swear "by His holiness"? Israel had every opportunity that the Gentiles did not have: His calling, His promises, His Word, His laws. He gave the Israelites these gifts to help them develop into His sons and daughters, but God sees them as diametrically opposite of Himself. Should not God expect to see some of His characteristics in His sons?
Prior to the study of Lamentations, John Ritenbaugh explores the topic of visions and dreams from the biblical point of view. Visions and dreams, used very rarely by God to communicate to people (God does not play around with people's minds), must be corroborated by scripture or God's law to establish their veracity. The second chapter of Lamentations, preceding the first chapter in time sequence, describes the stunning and disorienting shock of seeing the total systematic devastation and utter destruction of something formerly considered indestructible, and realizing that God was responsible for the devastation. The prophets and the religious leaders bear the greatest blame for this destruction by providing a quasi-religion (with smooth and feel-good teachings condoning sin) and not teaching the Law of God.
The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment
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