John Ritenbaugh, reminding us that Jesus handpicked the twelve apostles for a specific work, notes that there is a strong possibility that God has also handpicked each one of us to fulfill a particular role in the Body. Like an engineer on a building project, Jesus Christ has constructed a blueprint with detailed specifications. God is the Supreme Designer. He has called the common and the foolish people for the task of confounding the mighty. But after our calling, God sanctifies us, pounding out the foolishness, through His Holy Spirit putting His precious thoughts into our minds, making matters which were once cloudy clear. Accepting the gift of God's Holy Spirit comes with grave responsibility. We are required to place a high value on this precious gift, guarding it with all our heart. Where our heart is will be our treasure. Spiritual treasure will last, while all things material will deteriorate. Our heart is what makes us tick, what we set our minds to. God reveals that He has a heart and the capacity to feel tenderness. To a lost and hurting people, He assures Ephraim (symbolic of the wayward northern ten Tribes of Israel), "My heart churns within me" (Hosea 11:8). The book of Hebrews clarifies that the persecution on the Church following Jesus' crucifixion, resurrection, and the giving of the Holy Spirit did not come directly from God—but He did stir the pot that caused the persecuting in that fulcrum time in World History.
Charles Whitaker, focusing on Ezekiel 7:14, a chilling description of a summons to battle followed by a cowardly refusal to defend the home country, points out that this prophecy pertains to the nations of modern Israel. The descendants of Jacob have spent billions of dollars creating state-of-the-art weapons. Ironically, as early as the 1950s, the Rand Corporation advanced wrong-headed proposal for America's "orderly capitulation" in the event of nuclear attack, suggesting that surrender would forestall widescale (and perhaps irreparable) environmental degradation through radiation and nuclear winter. Environmental extremists have now burrowed their way into the seats of national policy-making, as evidenced by a top-ranking general who recently boasted—under oath—that he would defy any orders to use nuclear weapons if he felt they were issued contrary to his interpretation of international law. Looked at this way, extreme environmentalism, untampered by a thoroughgoing respect for American values and lives, is a clear-and-present danger to national security. Knowing of her self-advertised reticence to protect herself, Israel's enemies need not await a period of military weakness to mount a successful attack. Attack could come today; Jacob's Trouble could commence tomorrow.
Ronny Graham, focusing on the sequel of Jonah, the book of Nahum, a rather obscure and neglected book in the Minor Prophets, suggests that, while it predicts a violent destruction of a world-class empire, it also provides comfort and assurance to the exiles of the ten-tribe Northern Kingdom of Israel. Nahum, whose name means "comfort," assures the captives that God indeed is sovereign and would again comfort those who had suffered under the tyrannical fist of the Assyrians. Nineveh was a massive heretofore impenetrable fortress which had been around since the time of Nimrod. No human empire, regardless of its size, its weaponry, and its resources, can withstand the sovereignty of God Almighty. The Assyrians had attempted to strip Israel of its culture by transporting her to a different locale, denying them the use of their own language, their religion, and their historical roots. Just as God, through Nahum's prophecy, brought comfort to the exiles in captivity, the dualism of Nahum's prophecy assures those of us living in the present that as the Assyrian tyranny was smashed and lifted from ancient Israel, the satanic tyranny currently on our people will be obliterated by our sovereign God, a message of comfort for the impending Passover.
John Ritenbaugh, acknowledging that sometimes the pace of the Feast of Tabernacles can be wearying, reminds us that God has commanded His people to rejoice and to develop a beneficial fear and respect for Him. Enjoying the feast to the hilt physically does not necessarily mean we had a good feast. If we do nothing to make a fine feast for someone else, we probably will not have a good feast. God commanded the Israelites to offer more sacrifices at the Feast of Tabernacles than at all the other Holy Days combined. We attain spiritual regeneration by participation. After the Babylonian captivity, people felt more inclined to serve than before, having cultivated a new appreciation for what they had lost—namely, God's precious law. Just because we are keeping God's festivals does not necessarily mean we are in sync with God's Law or His purpose for our lives. God commissioned Amos to write a powerful, stirring message to the ten northern tribes, warning them to prepare to meet their God and to change the attitudes which were polluting God's feasts. Israel, in the time of Amos, had drifted into the same moral cesspool as the modern Israelitish nations have today, laden down with corruption and bloodshed, just as America's Supreme Court has made sodomy and murder the law of the land. Amos warned against exalting symbolism over substance, clinging to Bethel as a religious shrine, while neglecting the fact that Bethel was the location where God renamed Jacob to Israel. God wants each of us individually to go through the same transformation as our father Jacob—from conniving schemer to a totally converted and submissive servant.
Charles Whitaker observes that modern Israel, instead of expressing righteous indignation at the breaking of God's Covenant expresses a juvenile anger about the consequences of what their sins brought about. Sighing and crying involves far more than wallowing in worldly sorrow. As God's called-out ones, we must realize that on the heels of destruction will come the forces of reconciliation. The forces of destruction and construction will be virtually simultaneous. The knowledge of the Lord will cover the world as the waters of the seas, bringing physical as well as spiritual refreshment to the parched desert, restoring strength to those returning to the Promised Land. In the Day of the Lord, the haughty pride of man (symbolized by his lofty towers, high hills, or mountains) will be promptly leveled or destroyed. After this massive destruction, streams of crystal, restorative water will quickly heal all the broken lives resulting from man's misrule and his false religions. The curative act of restoration will follow quickly on the act of destruction during the Day of the Lord, unlike the unrelieved distress of the Great Tribulation. God's rod of correction is foundational, instrumental in building character, as every parent knows. The blow that God delivers to the Babylonian system will be foundational, laying the groundwork for a better civilization. The old has to go before the new can come. The destruction of the failed evil system ought to come with rejoicing. God's nature has a balance of goodness and severity.
Richard Ritenbaugh, aligning Book Three of the Psalms with the hot summer months, the Book of Leviticus in the Torah, the Book of Lamentations in the Megilloth, and Summary Psalm 148, indicates that this portion of Scripture deals with the somber theme of judgment on a people who have rejected their God and have produced a plethora of rotten spiritual fruit. Summer suggests military campaigns that have switched into high gear, a time when plowshares have been reshaped into implements of war, bringing on God's judgment on a faithless, rebellious people who should have known better. The 9th of Av, occurring this year the eve of July 25 and the day of July 26, constitutes the anniversary of the destruction of the first and second temples, bringing captivity for Israel and Judah for their overweening pride and vile sins. The major theme of Book Three of Psalms is that God wants repentance; He absolutely cannot tolerate sin. The keynote psalm, Psalm 73, describes the reaction of discouragement of a faithful person witnessing the prosperity and ease of the wicked person, while the righteous seem to be facing endless trials and harassments. When we finally see God's perspective from the tranquility of His sanctuary, we realize that the respective ends of the righteous and the wicked will be vastly different. We come to understand that not all who are in Israel are Israel, but only the ones with which God is working. The evil are currently in slippery places, destined for destruction, while God's chosen people, the Israel of God, are being groomed for a priceless inheritance. If we stick with God, we will acquire our inheritance in the fullness of time.
Charles Whitaker, citing British philosopher Arnold Toynbee's warning that when a civilization responds to a challenge successfully, it survives, and when it does not, it commits suicide, proclaims that because America, over the last several decades, has not responded to the challenge, the die is cast for its destruction. History could be characterized as "a panoply of responses" from forceful, extreme, wimpy, or Band-Aid and non-existent. King David, because of his botched-up, indulgent, child-rearing practices, failing to deal with pride, rebellion, and self-centeredness of his offspring, brought havoc upon the nation of Israel. Responses on the macro or national level must begin on the micro or family level; there cannot be national governance unless there is first successful individual governance. In the 1930's, the comic book and the movie cartoon arrived on the American scene, exploring and traversing the boundaries of decency. Bimbo's Initiation is an example of this low level of decency. Conservative religious circles responded to the deterioration of moral values, forcing the comic book industry to police itself, more with the motivation of protecting their profits than from any twinge of conscience. In 1954, nevertheless, the descent into the cesspool was temporarily averted, at least for a couple of decades, when crime was punished instead of glorified, when policemen were respected instead of vilified, when females were drawn realistically, and sexual perversion was abnormal rather than normal as it is portrayed today by liberal progressive humanists. Since 1971, the comic industry has destroyed its own code, and smut and filth is the new normal. We have no bold Phineases today who are unafraid of political correctness. The die has been cast for morally bankrupt America (and modern Israel as a whole). As God's called-out ones, we must draw close to our God as our nation reaps the harvest of its crop of sin and iniquity.
The lives of the Minor Prophets span the latter part of the history of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah and extend into the post-Exilic period. As witnesses to the decline and fall of these two unrepentant nations, the prophets report the conditions and attitudes that led to their defeat, captivity, and exile. In Part Three, Richard Ritenbaugh focuses on Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and Haggai.
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.
Richard Ritenbaugh, cuing in on Matthew 23 and 24, suggests that Matthew is in the habit of presenting Jesus' teachings on a given topic all in one place in the Bible, presenting the teachings from a decidedly Jewish point of view, demonstrating the ability of Jesus to thwart the insidious challenges of the Pharisees, as well as offering proofs of His Messiahship. The parables of the two sons, the wedding feast, and the wicked vine dressers all castigate Israel for rejecting God's messengers and the Messiah, calling for eight woes, rendering physical Israel and the Temple (symbol of Israel's splendor) totally desolate and uninhabited. In short, the nation of Israel would fall. We must be sure, as Christians and members of the Israel of God, not to miss the object lesson to us. God is no respecter of persons; He is a God of equity and fairness. God is not a soft-headed pushover who will accept us, sins and all; He does not budge one inch for sin. As God dealt with our disobedient forbears, He will deal with us in the exact same way if we stray from the truth, breaking His commandments. God is not mocked; what we sow is what we will reap. God's patience is long, but He will reach a boiling point when He will clean the slate, including disobedient members of His own church. God is a God of mercy, but He has a stiff core of justice which will not be placated unless we repent. To whom much has been given, much will be required.
At some point in the near future, the modern descendants of Israel will learn of their true identity—and have to face the consequences of that knowledge. Using the prophecies of the Second Exodus, David Grabbe reveals that God will do what is necessary to bring Israel to the spiritual condition and the physical location that He has purposed for her.
What happened to the Israelites after their captivity by Assyria? Charles Whitaker provides biblical evidence to show where they were driven and from where they will return. Includes the sidebar, "Deferred Promises are Not Forgotten Ones."
David C. Grabbe: ...By this accounting, it has been a pretty good year. For the time being, we can relax. We have "peace and safety." Right? It all depends on who or what is our biggest threat. ...
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.
What is in store for the nations of Israel? Is their future promising or bleak—or both? This article concludes a three-part series on the people of Israel.
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.
John Ritenbaugh warns that the pride of Jacob (or his offspring) coupled with the incredible ability to make tremendous technological advances, blinds Israel to its devastating moral deficit. Amos begins with a description or cataloging of the sins of Israel's enemies, followed by a harsh indictment of its own sins and a roar of wrath (or justice), followed by the encirclement by its enemies and its ultimate fall. Thankfully, after punishing His people, God will redeem them and faithfully fulfill His covenant with them. God, in His sovereignty, will do what He must to bring Abraham's seed to repentance and salvation, including allowing crisis, hardship, humiliation, and calamity. As the Israel of God, we dare not complacently take our special covenant-relationship for granted, realizing that His plumbline (a combination of grace and law) will measure us, testing our spirituality while showing absolutely no favoritism or partiality. We need to see ourselves from God's perspective.
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.
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