Pastor Kirk

Notes from Scio Community Church, Ann Arbor, Michigan

The Call: Woman of Obedience, 23 November 2014

Big Idea: Mary is not just for Catholics, but an obedient girl who responded to the call of God.

Summary:
The story of the birth of Jesus begins not on Christmas Day, but nine months or so prior. An angel calls Mary and announces her assignment (she really has no say in the matter!). She understandably asks the obvious question (v. 34) but does not object (as we will see next week). Has God called you to do something? It may not be as significant as giving birth to the Messiah, but are you being obedient to the smaller assignments He has given to you? Why did God choose Mary? It was likely because she was a woman (girl?) of obedience prior to the assignment.

keywords: calling, mission, obedience

Key Scripture: Luke 1:26-37

Introduction: Call

When someone calls you, what do you do?

That’s a vague question, right? It depends upon who calls and how. Two hundred years ago if you wanted to call a person you could use your voice or possibly a letter, one a bit more instantaneous than the other!

Then the telephone. We still have a land line. We almost never answer it, especially before political elections! If you ever call my house and we hang up on you, don’t take it personally! I’ve always tried to be respectful to people when they call. Half the time it’s not even a human on the other end. I sometimes pick up and just listen, waiting for a voice, then hanging up if there’s much more than a moment of silence on the other end. You might say I’m not very responsive if you call me on my home phone.

The same is sometimes true for the office phone. Caller ID is a blessing! Perhaps a third of the calls to the church office are telemarketers, another third are people in distress asking for money, and the final third are people calling for other purposes.

My cell phone is different. When it rings, I almost always respond. I don’t get too many telemarketers (knock on wood!). If my wife or one of my kids is on the caller ID, I almost always respond.

Have you ever noticed sometimes the phone is more important than the person in front of you? It’s amazing how tempting it is to let a phone call with a human take precedence over the human with whom we are interacting. I try to never interrupt a live conversation for a phone call unless it is my immediate family. That’s why they created voice mail!

Have you ever heard your name called in a public place? Your name may be the most important word in the world. It grabs your attention immediately. Perhaps you’ve heard your name over the PA system in a store or someone yelled your name across a parking lot. It’s unexpected, surprising, and sometimes rather fun. My father-in-law is the king of this! He retired to Florida and it seems every we talk with him he has another story of some old military buddy or high school colleague he encountered near his home.

Imagine a stranger called your name. They came to you and said, “Greetings!”

I’d probably run or tell them I’m out of cash if they wanted my money!

Imagine being a teenage girl and suddenly you’re confronted by…an angel!

Angels are real. The Bible is full of them. One third left to follow satan when he was kicked out of heaven for his pride, a failed coup attempt against God.

Have you ever met an angel?

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel
to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:26-28)

This is great new! First, the angel is very friendly. “Greetings.” Then Mary is told she is highly favored. Who wouldn’t want an angel to announce that to them? Then Mary is told the Lord is the her.

Imagine you go for a walk in the park and a friendly angel announces God is with you and you’re highly favored. What could be better?

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. (Luke 1:29)

Greatly troubled at his words? It doesn’t say she was troubled by the appearance of a ghost. She was troubled at the angel’s words.

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:30-33)

Mary was afraid. Perhaps angels can be scary! He repeats Mary’s favor with God. David is mentioned again…and Jacob, too. Gentiles tend to skip over these details, seeing them as unimportant facts, but as a Jew, they were significant. Prophecy clearly stated the Messiah would be a descendant of David. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were the beginning of the people of Israel.

Matthew states it this way:

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose
mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. (Matthew 1:1-16)

Last week we talked about women and how they have not always been given the freedom, recognition, responsibility, and opportunities afforded to men. Here is the family tree of Jesus. It’s not too exciting at first, but notice the women included—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba…and Mary.

Tamar and Rahab were prostitutes or alleged. Ruth was a foreigner. Bathsheba committed adultery—or was a rape victim. It’s startling that these women would be specifically mentioned (since each man listed had a mom!).

The repeated phrase “The father of” shifts with Jesus since Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus, but He was born of Mary.

For about 400 years God had been silent, the inter-testamental period between the old and new. Then the aged Elizabeth gets pregnant and now the virgin Mary is with child.

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34)

Very good question!

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” (Luke 1:35-37)

Mary

With few exceptions, “Mariam” has been tossed aside by Protestants except for the month of December when we let her sit in the nativity scene beside the baby Jesus. Not wanting to “worship” her as Roman Catholics are often accused of doing, we ignore her faith, obedience, and important role throughout the life and death of Jesus. This series will strive to uncover the character and narrative of one of the Bible’s most underrated figures and one we are to call “blessed” (Luke 1:48b).

Why do we virtually ignore Mary? For some it is a reaction to Catholics. Contrary to some rumors, Mary was not a Roman Catholic!!! If Mary is overrated by Catholics, she is underrated by Protestants. Aside from being the mother of Jesus, she found favor with God and was carefully chosen to bring the Messiah into our world. As my professor Scot McKnight says, “We are Protestants; we believe in the Bible; Mary is in the Bible; we need to believe what the Bible says about Mary.”

Mary was obedient, not only in giving birth to Jesus (did she have a choice?!) but she clearly lived a life that honored God. She was undoubtedly faithful in the small things that allowed her to be chosen for a most monumental task.

So What?

What about you? Are you highly favored by God? I can promise you God is with you. That was His promise. Matthew’s final recorded words of Jesus—known as the Great Commission—say this:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Notice two things:

  • Jesus wants His followers to obey…and teach others to obey. Obedience is God’s love language.
  • He promises to be with us. Always. Psalm 139 is one of many explicit passages about God’s omnipresence—His ability to be with us always and everywhere. We are never alone. Never.

What is God saying to you today? What are you going to do about it?

Those two questions will determine not only your present but your future. God is not mad at you. He’s not trying to harm you or make your life miserable. He’s a great, loving Dad who can be trusted—even when He’s not understood.

One of the great things about Thanksgiving is the way it reminds us how we are truly blessed. Every good and perfect gift is from the LORD.

My prayer for you and me is that we would trust and obey. He’s calling you to obey. He’s calling me to obey. Have you heard His voice? If not, perhaps it’s time to spend more time with Him—in prayer and study of His Word.

Women in the Bible, 16 November 2014

Big Idea: Mary is not just for Catholics, but a crucial Biblical character worth imitating alongside many other godly women.

Key Scripture: Matthew 1:1-16

Introduction

I want to talk about
women. I’m particularly fond of one beautiful woman, my wife, my best friend, and the mother of our three adult children. We have been married for more then 24 years and there’s (at least) one thing I’ve never heard her express: complaint about being a woman.

It’s no secret that throughout history women have been treated as second-class citizens. The exact origins are unclear to me—aside from the possibility that average men are more physically strong and capable of using and abusing force and violence to achieve their objectives.

Although we think nothing of women owning property, voting, or leading corporations, women are often paid less than men for similar work…and we have yet to have a woman lead our nation as president. According to one
Newsweek study, the USA ranks eighth in the world in terms of opportunity for women (Iceland is first followed by Sweden, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, and Norway). The worst country is Chad, followed by Afghanistan, Yemen, The DR of Congo, and Mali. (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/09/18/best-and-worst-countries-for-women-from-iceland-to-the-u-s-to-pakistan-and-afghanistan.html)

Today women aren’t allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia and are killed for honor in Pakistan.

It’s easy to point fingers at the “world,” but the church has not always treated women favorably. In many churches and denominations, women are restricted in areas of leadership, understandably on the basis of some of Paul’s writings in the New Testament. What has always bothered me, however, is the double standard when women can go overseas and lead churches but are forbidden from doing much of anything in a USA congregation.

Just for the record, I have struggled more with the issue of women in leadership than any other issue. I respect many that hold to a conservative view and many that are very progressive. We’re not going to delve into Paul much today, but I want to suggest the restrictions he placed upon women were specific women in specific churches at a specific time, not necessarily universal instructions for every woman for all times. Were that the case, we would be in great violation at Scio. For instance,

Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? (1 Corinthians 11:13)

As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. (1 Corinthians 14:33b-35)

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. (1 Timothy 2:11-13)

Men and women
are different.

Male and Female

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them “man.” (Genesis 5:2)

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ (Matthew 19:4)

“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ (Mark 10:6)

“Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” wrote one bestselling author! We are different, but it cannot and should not be said that men are superior to women.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Here’s the formal statement by our denomination, the Christian & Missionary Alliance:

Women may fulfill any function in the local church which the senior pastor and elders may choose to delegate to them consistent with the Uniform Constitution for Accredited Churches and may properly engage in any kind of ministry except that which involves elder authority.

  • from the Manual of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, H1, Statement on Church Government, 4. Form of Government, d. Local Church, (5)

Junia(s)

Years ago I wrote a paper on the subject of women in ministry when I was doing my master’s degree. I received an “A” but the professor wrote, “What is your opinion on the subject?” I tried to faithfully present both sides of the argument—and the spectrum. Apparently I presented the viewpoints without revealing mine. My paper was based upon one verse in the last chapter of the book of Romans.

Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. (Romans 16:7, NIV 1984)

There’s one problem with this verse. The fourth word is actually
Junia. There is no evidence that any man had the name Junias! This verse says Junias is outstanding among the apostles. Since apostles were thought to not be women and Junia was a woman, the name was changed to Junias, therefore making it a male name.

So Junias is a man who didn’t exist with a name that didn’t exist in the ancient world!

Early translations of the New Testament into other languages showed Junia as a woman but Martin Luther turned her into a man! He wasn’t the first, but was influential in the name/gender change.

The Bible we possess is not in the original language, nor do we have the original manuscripts. We have English translations derived from composites of various manuscripts. This does not mean the Bible is unreliable, but it does mean the 66 books didn’t fall from heaven, leather-bound in English!

Notice…

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. (Romans 16:7, NIV 2011)

Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. (Romans 16:7, NASB)

Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. (Romans 16:7, KJV)

My professor, Scot McKnight, and most scholars “are reasonably confident” we have the original words in about 98% of the New Testament, and the few questionable issues do not deal with essential matters of our faith.

So Junia is an outstanding apostle. Priscilla taught Apollos. Phoebe was a deacon.

Women in the Bible

Why are we talking about Junias in a series about Mary? Mary is not the first prominent woman in the Bible. Throughout this series we will examine her story, her character, and her significance. We all know she was Jesus’ mom, but let’s look at His family tree.

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. (Matthew 1:1-16)

Here is the family tree of Jesus. It’s not too exciting at first, but notice the women included—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba…and Mary.

Tamar and Rahab were prostitutes. Ruth was a foreigner. Bathsheba committed adultery—or was a rape victim. It’s startling that these women would be specifically mentioned (since each man listed had a mom!).

The repeated phrase “The father of” shifts with Jesus since Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus, but He was born of Mary.

Mom

Each year we celebrate Mother’s Day. It’s a special day filled with emotions for most of us, feelings of warmth and love for some, grief and loss for others. Moms are special. We honor them. If your mom is special, imagine how special Jesus’ mom must be.

Series Introduction

With few exceptions, “Mariam” has been tossed aside by Protestants except for the month of December when we let her sit in the nativity scene beside the baby Jesus. Not wanting to “worship” her as Roman Catholics are often accused of doing, we ignore her faith, obedience, and important role throughout the life and death of Jesus. This series will strive to uncover the character and narrative of one of the Bible’s most underrated figures and one we are to call “blessed” (Luke 1:48b).

Why do we virtually ignore Mary? For some it is a reaction to Catholics.

As Scot McKnight says, “We are Protestants; we believe in the Bible; Mary is in the Bible; we need to believe what the Bible says about Mary.”

For Further Study

The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Habakkuk, 2 November 2014

Big Idea: We don’t always understand God and His timing, but He can be trusted.

Introduction

Today we examine our bonus eleventh book in our series The Most Unread Books of the Bible, based upon the ten least-read books on BibleGateway.com.

Time

Timing in life is vitally important. Photographers long for the perfect timing of an event to capture it forever. Runners and other speed racers can win or lose a race by 1/1000 of a second. I used to think I was a patient person, but I find myself frustrated at the brief delays in my life caused by red lights, slow microwaves (!), and seasons of life, both literal and figurative (unless it’s spring or summer!). God’s timing is perfect because He is perfect, He is sovereign and in control. Daddy knows best.

Sometimes we feel like God is sleeping or even a myth because He usually doesn’t respond to our prayers on demand. We want it now! Have you ever prayed, “LORD, heal them tomorrow” or “Please give me a new job next year”? We assume we know best and God should obey our every command. Fortunately He doesn’t! He has bigger plans and ideas…if we only trust Him.

Background

This is the only book in which the name Habakkuk appears. His name means to embrace or wrestle with God. He likely lived around 600 BC. He lived during Judah’s final days and Babylon’s domination.

Chapter 1: Wrestling. Why?

The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received. (Habakkuk 1:1)

This word oracle in the original Hebrew language,
mas-saw’, meant an utterance, a doom, or a burden. Habakkuk is definitely burdened!

How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted. (Habakkuk 1:2-4)

Most prophets deliver God’s message to the people. Habakkuk brings the questions of the people to God. He begins with four questions.


Can you feel the anxiety? The frustration? Where are You, LORD? Do You see what’s going on? Are You really sovereign, in control? If so, surely You don’t want

  • Ebola spreading
  • the Islamic State to continue
  • innocent children dying from dirty water and starvation
  • Your chosen people, the Jews, in constant battle in Israel
  • natural disasters destroying communities

Whoever said following Jesus was easy?! This world is messed up! God knows. He sees. He does choose to intervene sometimes, but when? Why? It’s okay to ask God. It’s okay to have questions and doubts. God can handle them. It’s okay to ask why. Jesus even did it on the cross: “Why have You forsaken Me?”

Obviously our perspective is limited. Daddy knows best. The cross comes before the crown.

What is your favorite book of the Bible? Mine is the Psalms. As a musician, I especially love the poetic song lyrics contained within the Bible’s song book. However, they are not all happy songs of praise. One third are psalms of lament. They are songs of grief. There is an entire book of the Bible devoted to lament—Lamentations. Why? Because life is hard. There are many battles in which evil wins. As long as satan and his demons are allowed to roam we will experience death, destruction, and pain.

Today is not the end of the story, however. There is more to come. Much more. 75 or 100 years seems like a lifetime. Wait! It
is a lifetime, but compares to eternity, it’s instant. As Paul said to the church in Corinth

…we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16b-18)

Back to Habakkuk. Here’s God’s response to his lament.

“Look at the nations and watch — and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own. They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor. Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like a vulture swooping to devour; they all come bent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand. They deride kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at all fortified cities; they build earthen ramps and capture them. Then they sweep past like the wind and go on — guilty men, whose own strength is their god.” (Habakkuk 1:5-11)

God says the solution is the Babylonians. Huh? God would use Babylon to judge Judah. How could God use the wicked Babylonians to judge His chosen people?

O LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, we will not die. O LORD, you have appointed them to execute judgment; O Rock, you have ordained them to punish. Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? You have made men like fish in the sea, like sea creatures that have no ruler. (Habakkuk 1:12-14)

Again, God can handle our questions. I have found sometimes when I express my questions, I feel better even if I don’t get the answers I’m seeking.

Three young men refused to bow to an idol and were sentenced to burning in a fiery furnace. If you recall the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, they did not deny the reality of their situation, but understood God may or may not perform a miracle. Instead of denial, they were defiant.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)

“Even if not.” They understood God knows best. He may choose to say yes, no, or wait. They knew God could be trusted, whatever His decision.

In this instance, He entered the fire with them. King Nebuchadnezzar said

“Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:25)

It’s better to be in the furnace with Jesus that without Him outside of it. Where is God when it hurts? With us. Always.

Chapter 2: Waiting on God. When?

“Waiting” means to pass time. It also means to serve another person like a servant waiting on his master.

Then the LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. “See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright — but the righteous will live by his faith — indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples. (Habakkuk 2:2-5)

Do you like to wait? I hate to wait! When we wrestle with God we often ask “why?” When we wait, the question becomes “when?”

It’s time for a geology lesson! Geology is the study of pressure plus time. Pressure and time reveal our character. Do you know what pressure over time produces geologically? Diamonds. They are created from the carbon as coal but time and pressure create a jewel.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

This is your diamond, your reward. Can you wait? Can you trust God?

God wants us happy, but He especially wants us holy. Pressure plus time equals beauty.

What is the largest diamond in the world? The Hope Diamond!

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4)

The judgment would occur very soon as God stated. They could remain proud like the Babylonians (we talked about the pride of the Edomites last week) or live by faith knowing God is in control.

Verse four is one of the most important verses in the Bible. In fact, it is referenced three times in the New Testament (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38). It is through faith in Jesus that we can receive the righteousness of God.

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)

Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” (Galatians 3:11)

But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” (Hebrews 10:38)

We are saved by faith.
We are to live by faith.

Notice how Habakkuk is able to express his questions in the midst of faith.

Next Habakkuk offers a series of woes against the Babylonians. God would bring them down in His perfect timing.

“Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying, “‘Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion! How long must this go on?’ Will not your debtors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their victim. Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you. For you have shed man’s blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them. “Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his nest on high, to escape the clutches of ruin! You have plotted the ruin of many peoples, shaming your own house and forfeiting your life. The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it. “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime! Has not the LORD Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies. You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and be exposed! The cup from the LORD’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory. The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, and your destruction of animals will terrify you. For you have shed man’s blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them. “Of what value is an idol, since a man has carved it? Or an image that teaches lies? For he who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak. Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it. But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” (Habakkuk 2:6-20)

Chapter 3: Worship.

Chapter three is Habakkuk’s final response, a song (v. 19). He asks for mercy (2) and describes the character of God (v. 3-15).

A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On
shigionoth. LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth. His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden. Plague went before him; pestilence followed his steps. He stood, and shook the earth; he looked, and made the nations tremble. The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed. His ways are eternal. (Habakkuk 3:1-6)

Habakkuk remembers what God has done. Sometimes the way forward is to first look back. The Old Testament is filled with spiritual amnesia, instances of people forgetting God’s goodness and faithfulness. We need to remember. Jesus told us to remember Him, His death, and His resurrection.

I saw the tents of Cushan in distress, the dwellings of Midian in anguish. Were you angry with the rivers, O LORD? Was your wrath against the streams? Did you rage against the sea when you rode with your horses and your victorious chariots? You uncovered your bow, you called for many arrows. Selah You split the earth with rivers; the mountains saw you and writhed. Torrents of water swept by; the deep roared and lifted its waves on high. Sun and moon stood still in the heavens at the glint of your flying arrows, at the lightning of your flashing spear. In wrath you strode through the earth and in anger you threshed the nations. You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one. You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness, you stripped him from head to foot. Selah With his own spear you pierced his head when his warriors stormed out to scatter us, gloating as though about to devour the wretched who were in hiding. You trampled the sea with your horses, churning the great waters. (Habakkuk 3:7-15)

What is the result of Habakkuk’s laments, woes, and anguish?

I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. (Habakkuk 3:16)

He accepts what God is doing and then trusts Him. Here’s the conclusion…

Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. For the director of music. On my stringed instruments. (Habakkuk 3:16b-19)

He was willing to wait. No matter how hopeless the situation, there is hope in God. Tomorrow is coming. As Tony Campolo used to say concerning the crucifixion, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!”

God can be trusted. The righteous will live by faith. The best is yet to come. In the meantime, we can worship by faith, offering up a sacrifice of praise.

For Further Study

Where is God When It Hurts? by Philip Yancey

Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Obadiah, 26 October 2014

Big Idea: God is sovereign (in control) and He is the ultimate judge. He hates sin, especially pride.

This series is designed to encourage reading the less-read books of the Bible (according to BibleGateway.com).

Overview: The nation of Edom in Mt. Seir sided against Judah, and they should have known better. The prophet Obadiah foresees Edom’s despise and Mt. Zion’s restoration.

Introduction

Today we examine our tenth book in our series The Most Unread Books of the Bible, based upon the least-read books on BibleGateway.com. Obadiah is the final book mentioned in the report, though we will do a bonus book next week, Habakkuk.

Like many of these small books in the Old Testament, Obadiah is a minor prophet. He is not inferior to the others, but rather his book is short. He could also be called minor in that we know nothing about him, not even the name of his father, a common detail in most biblical accounts. Obadiah was a common Old Testament name but it is unlikely that this prophet is mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. The name means “servant or worshiper of the Lord.”

We know little about the date of this book, some believing an early date of 850 BC and others as late as 587 BC.

The prime audience is the Edomites, descendants of Esau (Genesis 36). Abram’s name was changed to Abraham. He had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Isaac had twin sons, Jacob and Esau. We know quite a bit about Jacob and his sons, including Joseph. Esau, the oldest, gave up his birthright to Jacob and had a much less prominent place in history. Esau’s descendants were called Edomites. They treated the Judeans—Jews—cruelly. In the book of Obadiah—the shortest Old Testament book—God makes some bold declarations about the nation of Edom that reveal His heart and character.

This is the vision that the Sovereign LORD revealed to Obadiah concerning the land of Edom. (Obadiah 1a, New Living Translation)

Edom’s Judgment Announced

We have heard a message from the LORD that an ambassador was sent to the nations to say, “Get ready, everyone! Let’s assemble our armies and attack Edom!” The LORD says to Edom, “I will cut you down to size among the nations; you will be greatly despised. You have been deceived by your own pride because you live in a rock fortress and make your home high in the mountains. ‘Who can ever reach us way up here?’ you ask boastfully. But even if you soar as high as eagles and build your nest among the stars, I will bring you crashing down,” says the LORD. (Obadiah 2-4,
NLT)

Edom is an arrogant people. They have power, have mistreated their neighbor, Judah, and feel smug. The bad guys are winning, but the story is not over.

There is a cycle to power. God will get the final say at Judgment Day. History is filled with accounts of the good guys winning, but today the same battle between good and evil is raging, the enemy still wins sometimes, but the ultimate victor will be King Jesus!

Listen to God’s description of Edom’s upcoming humiliation:

“If thieves came at night and robbed you (what a disaster awaits you!), they would not take everything. Those who harvest grapes always leave a few for the poor. But your enemies will wipe you out completely! Every nook and cranny of Edom will be searched and looted. Every treasure will be found and taken. “All your allies will turn against you. They will help to chase you from your land. They will promise you peace while plotting to deceive and destroy you. Your trusted friends will set traps for you, and you won’t even know about it. At that time not a single wise person will be left in the whole land of Edom,” says the LORD. “For on the mountains of Edom I will destroy everyone who has understanding.The mightiest warriors of Teman will be terrified, and everyone on the mountains of Edom will be cut down in the slaughter. (Obadiah 5-9, NLT)

Why would a loving God treat people this way? We are so quick to judge God. Isn’t it His prerogative to do what He wants? Didn’t He create the universe? Who does He think He is, God?! Yes!!!

As God, He is the perfect judge. His assessments are perfect. He can tolerate sin for only so long. Throughout history He has stepped in, causing confusion at Babel, parting the sea for the Israelites and closing them upon the Egyptians, prompting walls to fall at the sound of trumpets, providing a way for a small boy to kill a giant, …

Perhaps you think God created the world and then abandoned it. This was the belief of many of our nation’s founding fathers. They were deists, believing in a creator but having no faith in miracles. What a boring faith!

I must confess I long to see more of God’s activity in the world. Part of the problem, I’m sure, is my inability to see what God
is doing. Another problem is my poor memory, forgetting the countless times God has been faithful, answering prayer and, sometimes, literally performing miracles. Arguably the greatest challenge to seeing God’s work is our impatience.

Sometimes when we pray God says yes. Sometimes He says no because He knows best. Many times, however, it’s just a matter of timing. Of waiting. People waited hundreds of years for the Messiah, Jesus. We have been waiting about two thousand years for His return. It will occur. He is alive. Just you wait!

Back to Edom. God is angry and wants them punished. Before you get too upset at God, wouldn’t you want Hitler punished if you were around in World War II? What do you think about ISIS? Pedophiles? The atrocities in North Korea or the fact that there are more slaves today in our world than at any point in human history? Sometimes the only way to keep the good guys alive is to destroy the bad guys. I’m not advocating for personal violence, but simply reminding us what God said:

I will take vengeance in anger and wrath upon the nations that have not obeyed me.” (Micah 5:15; “in that day”)

One commentator wrote

Vengeance in the Bible is a legal term signifying that a ruler secures his kingdom by protecting his subjects and punishing their persecutors. The disrespect of the unbelieving nations for his holy kingdom incurs his anger and wrath. Throughout history God has protected his rule against the nations that have not obeyed him, but he will finally execute his protective power at Christ’s second coming (Lk. 18:7-8; 21:22; 2 Thes. 1:8; Rev. 6:10). (IVP-NB Commentary)

Here’s the crime committed by Edom:

Reasons for Edom’s Punishment

“Because of the violence you did to your close relatives in Israel, you will be filled with shame and destroyed forever. When they were invaded, you stood aloof, refusing to help them. Foreign invaders carried off their wealth and cast lots to divide up Jerusalem, but you acted like one of Israel’s enemies. “You should not have gloated when they exiled your relatives to distant lands.You should not have rejoiced when the people of Judah suffered such misfortune. You should not have spoken arrogantly in that terrible time of trouble. You should not have plundered the land of Israel when they were suffering such calamity. You should not have gloated over their destruction when they were suffering such calamity. You should not have seized their wealth when they were suffering such calamity. You should not have stood at the crossroads, killing those who tried to escape. You should not have captured the survivors and handed them over in their terrible time of trouble. (Obadiah 10-14, NLT)

Edom’s capital, Sela, was on a high rock overlooking the territory below, making it easy to defend. Thieves steal what they need, but God would take everything!

God’s not done speaking.

Edom Destroyed, Israel Restored

“The day is near when I, the LORD, will judge all godless nations!
As you have done to Israel, so it will be done to you. All your evil deeds will fall back on your own heads. Just as you swallowed up my people on my holy mountain, so you and the surrounding nations will swallow the punishment I pour out on you. Yes, all you nations will drink and stagger and disappear from history. “But Jerusalem will become a refuge for those who escape; it will be a holy place. And the people of Israel
will come back to reclaim their inheritance. The people of Israel will be a raging fire, and Edom a field of dry stubble. The descendants of Joseph will be a flame roaring across the field, devouring everything. There will be no survivors in Edom. I, the LORD, have spoken! (Obadiah 15-18, NLT)

God concludes…

“Then my people living in the Negev will occupy the mountains of Edom.
Those living in the foothills of Judah will possess the Philistine plains
and take over the fields of Ephraim and Samaria. And the people of Benjamin
will occupy the land of Gilead. The exiles of Israel will return to their land
and occupy the Phoenician coast as far north as Zarephath. The captives from Jerusalem exiled in the north
will return home and resettle the towns of the Negev. Those who have been rescued will go up to Mount Zion in Jerusalem
to rule over the mountains of Edom. And the LORD himself will be king!” (Obadiah 19-21,
NLT)

Here we see again this phrase “the day of the Lord.” Judgment Day. The sheep and the goats, the righteous and the wicked, the good guys and the bad guys, Michigan and Ohio St…oops! Seriously, though, Judgment Day will usher in the rule and reign of King Jesus. His friends that have received the Father’s invitation will rule in His Kingdom forever while those that rejected God will be punished.

Judgment Day

What if it’s today? What if God chose today to judge the living and the dead? Are you ready? What about your friends and family? This is where things get uncomfortable in a hurry.

Peter, the first pope, said

He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. (Acts 10:42)

He also said of unbelievers,

But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:5)

This is why we’re still here! We’re on a mission from God to let the whole world know the Father loves them and invites them into a covenantal relationship with Himself. He will be king and we can begin kingdom life today by submitting to His authority rather than making ourselves the center of our own universe.

Every day I choose to rule my life or get off the throne, pick up my cross, and follow Jesus. Honestly, I don’t always make the right choice. Pride gets in the way. Selfishness is more attractive than servanthood. I’m self-righteous and judge others. I envy. I worry. Oh how I worry, allowing myself to be overcome by fear rather than trusting God completely.

I want to be faithful to God because He has been so faithful to me. He can be trusted.

Judgment Day is coming for all of us. None of us know when, but it is coming. Are you ready?

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Nahum, 19 October 2014

Big Idea: Nineveh has gone too far, they’ve oppressed Judah and taken Israel into captivity and God isn’t going to let them get away with treating His people that way.

This series is designed to encourage reading the less-read books of the Bible (according to BibleGateway.com).

Background Information

We know little about Nahum.

One theme: the judgment of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire.

Nahum means comforter.

Elkosh was a city in Assyria a few miles north of Nineveh. There was also a village in Galilee named Elkosh. Capernaum is considered to be the village of Nahum. He was born there or lived there as a boy.

He was probably born in the northern kingdom, Israel. He moved to Elkosh in the south of Judah and raised there in the southern kingdom.

Nahum may have been a contemporary of Isaiah and Micah.

Date of writing: 720-636 BC, about 100-150 years after Jonah and about 100 years before the destruction of Nineveh.

Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. God was just in destroying Nineveh.

God told Jonah to bring a message to Nineveh. The city turned to God, seemingly the entire city, one hundred percent, an unprecedented spiritual awakening. Obviously the revival died over time and they returned to their paganism.

Nahum probably did not go to the city, unlike Jonah. They’ve had the light and rejected it. Our nation has the light and we have largely rejected it (yikes!). All revivals eventually die.

Scottish historian Alexander Tytler described the
life cycle of a democracy. Where are we today?

From bondage to spiritual faith to courage to liberty to abundance to selfishness to complacency to apathy to bondage.

Introduction

This morning we return to our series “The Most Unread Books of the Bible,” an overview of those parts of the Bible that are less read according to BibleGateway.com.

Before we look at today’s book of Nahum, I want to mention hermeneutics. That’s a fancy word for how to read the Bible. Because it’s a big, old collection of books, we can’t just pick it up and read it like we would
The Ann Arbor News or People magazine. Two books I recommend on the subject—which may seem odd, reading a book about how to read a book—are

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee & Douglas Stuart
The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight

The hermeneutical process is rather simple but often ignored:

  • What did the text originally mean?
  • What does it mean for us today?
  • So what? How do we apply it?

Each step, however, presents its own set of challenges. Let me illustrate why this is important.

As I usually do, I did a Google image search for Nahum, hoping to find a nice picture to put on the screen as I speak. I didn’t find much, but one verse repeatedly popped up with a colorful image: Nahum 1:7

The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him, (Nahum 1:7)

I love that verse. It makes me feel good. It makes me think happy thoughts about God. There is truth in these words. There’s more, though. The verse does not end with a period, but rather a comma. Look at what follows!

but with an overwhelming flood he will make an end of [Nineveh]; he will pursue his foes into darkness. (Nahum 1:8)

Not so pretty. Not so happy!

This simple example reveals the importance of context. I have often had people ask me a question about a particular verse. Much of the time the answer can be found in the context. We can’t just pick a verse, stick it on a pretty picture, and hang it on our wall. We can, but we’re likely to miss the point.

Understood? Great!

While we’re on the subject, I came across a great article this week from
Relevant Magazine online entitled

9 Things Everyone Should Do When Reading The Bible by Bronwyn Lea

I want to briefly list a few here:

1. Read ‘King’ When You See ‘Christ.’

Christ, or Messiah, means “anointed one,” and priests and kings were anointed. Substituting "King Jesus" for "Christ Jesus" when reading draws attention to the fact that Christ was not Jesus' last name, but in fact His title: one of great honor and esteem. Making that one switch alone breathes new life into reading the New Testament.

2. Read ‘You’ Differently.

Almost all the "you" words in the New Testament are plural you's rather than singular y
ou's. The Southern "y'all" expresses it beautifully.

3. If You See a ‘Therefore,’ Find Out What It’s There For.

8. Remember What You Learned in English Class.

The Bible is not an instruction manual. It's not a "how-to" book for life. It is a collection of 66 books of literature, and to interpret it correctly, you need to remember what you learned in English class about interpreting different genres of literature.

9. Read to Study. But Also, Read to Refresh Your Heart.

Now…

Nahum

In many ways, we can get the big idea of Nahum in these two verses—but not just one! God is good…but just. He is merciful…but hates evil. He is God…and we are not!

Background

God made a covenant with Abram to bless him and his offspring and make them into a great nation—Israel. Israel split and God’s people were in Israel and Judah. The Jewish people had many enemies (as they still have today!). Nineveh was one of those enemies and the prophet Nahum writes to them, warning of His displeasure. Don’t mess with God or His people!

Nahum 1

Nahum is an undated book written about Nineveh, yes, the place Jonah to which Jonah was sent. Nahum’s name means consoler or comforter, a description of his role toward Judah but not Nineveh!

Notice the various attributes of God expressed in these verses.

An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite. The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet. (Nahum 1:1-3)

He rebukes the sea and dries it up; he makes all the rivers run dry. Bashan and Carmel wither and the blossoms of Lebanon fade. The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at his presence, the world and all who live in it. Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him. (Nahum 1:4-6)

Now we come to that lovely verse 7. Notice the happy verses before
and after it!

The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him, but with an overwhelming flood he will make an end of [Nineveh]; he will pursue his foes into darkness. Whatever they plot against the LORD he will bring to an end; trouble will not come a second time. They will be entangled among thorns and drunk from their wine; they will be consumed like dry stubble. From you, [O Nineveh,] has one come forth who plots evil against the LORD and counsels wickedness. (Nahum 1:7-11)

It continues…

This is what the LORD says: “Although they have allies and are numerous, they will be cut off and pass away. Although I have afflicted you, [O Judah,] I will afflict you no more. Now I will break their yoke from your neck and tear your shackles away.” The LORD has given a command concerning you, [Nineveh]: “You will have no descendants to bear your name. I will destroy the carved images and cast idols that are in the temple of your gods. I will prepare your grave, for you are vile.” (Nahum 1:12-14)

Then this interesting verse emerges:

Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace! Celebrate your festivals, O Judah, and fulfill your vows. No more will the wicked invade you; they will be completely destroyed. (Nahum 1:15)

We see similarities between Nahum and Isaiah, a text referenced in Romans 10:15).

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)

The big picture of the book of Nahum is Nineveh has gone too far. They’ve oppressed Judah and taken Israel into captivity and God isn’t going to let them get away with treating His people that way.
Nineveh fell. They were literally wiped off the map! God said…

“I am against you,” declares the LORD Almighty. “I will burn up your chariots in smoke, and the sword will devour your young lions. I will leave you no prey on the earth. The voices of your messengers will no longer be heard.” (Nahum 2:13)

You don’t want to be on the receiving end of that!

Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims! The crack of whips, the clatter of wheels, galloping horses and jolting chariots! Charging cavalry, flashing swords and glittering spears! Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without number, people stumbling over the corpses — all because of the wanton lust of a harlot, alluring, the mistress of sorceries, who enslaved nations by her prostitution and peoples by her witchcraft. “I am against you,” declares the LORD Almighty. “I will lift your skirts over your face. I will show the nations your nakedness and the kingdoms your shame. (Nahum 3:1-5)

This explains why God is angry.

We’re not exactly sure when Nahum was written. Assyria fell in 612 BC so this book was either a prophetic warning in around 615 BC or a later narrative of what occurred. Regardless, the wicked were destroyed.

So What?

You’re on God’s team or your His enemy…and every day we choose. Every day we can pick up our cross and follow Jesus, making King Jesus Lord of our lives, or we can do it our way. He’ll let us…but He’ll be crushed when we experiences the consequences of selfish living.

Everything God said to Nineveh could be said to us. I don’t pretend to understand His timing, but He will bless those who love Him and curse those who hate Him.

We love having Jesus as Savior, but is He Lord? Is He King? Does your calendar reflect it? Do your actions show it? Does your bank account demonstrate it? Do your words communicate it?

Judgment Day is coming for all of us. None of us know when, but it is coming.
Are you ready?

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

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