Thursday, September 6, 2012

Joel's Symbolism of Judgment

Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
Joel 2:12-13

The book of Joel is one of the great books of prophecy found in the minor prophets. This seer understood that the judgment Israel was facing in his day was directed by God to call the nation to repentance. Three judgments hit the land of Judah in succession. First, they were invaded by locusts that destroyed all of the crops and denuded the trees. After this a severe drought hit them. Finally, it appears that a fire ravaged anything that was left. Joel's message is simple--"If you think it is bad now, wait until the Day of the Lord!"

There is a lot of symbolism in this book that parallels America's current condition spiritually.  Before I go on, please remember that the events Joel described were real and the last day's warnings are just as true and will take place imminently. Yet, the message of this prophet can clearly speak a message to us today! Here is some of that symbolism and what it speaks of our condition.

1. God sent the locusts. He used them in an effort to draw the people back to Him. Compare these judgments with His warnings in Deuteronomy 28. "All thy trees and fruit of thy land shall the locust consume." Dt. 28:42 God sends all judgment in a redemptive manner to draw us back to Him. Will we heed the warning judgment or shuffle off alone failing to repent and face further reprisals?

2. All that was green was destroyed. Green speaks of life and rest (Ps. 23:2), growth and fruitfulness (Luke 23:31, Ez. 17:24), and maturity (Job 15:31-32). Due to an invasion of spiritual locusts, few churches are seeing true life in Christ, very few are seeing actual growth (Members bouncing from church to church is not growth! It might make a pastor feel good, but it is not growth!), and few believers are pressing on to maturity.

3. The grain and drink offerings were cut off. These speak directly to the gospel. The grain makes bread and the drink offering was from wine. Few churches are actually preaching the true gospel message today. Rather, there is an emphasis on God, the great genii, who poofs blessings our way to make us happier in health, wealth, and prosperity. God isn't your heavenly bell-hop! You are his servant bought with a price you were not worth! All you deserve from Him is destruction, but in mercy and love He saved you by great grace in Christ! Time is short and he wishes you to be a servant He can trust in His field and not a whining baby crying for more milk!

4. The trees were stripped of their bark. Trees speak of the cross according to Acts 5:30 and 1 Peter 2:24. When was the last time you heard a message that proclaimed the importance of the blood of Jesus? Who preaches the cross and the power of a resurrected Savior? Many churches have denuded the cross and preach a message other than the truth. You had better listen to Paul's warning in Galatians for preaching anything other than Christ crucified, resurrected, glorified, and coming again. It is this message that the power of the Holy Ghost endorses.

5. The pomegranates were cut off. Pomegranates are a well known symbol of the law. It is said a pomegranate has 613 seeds which is the same number of OT laws. If you don't believe the laws of God are cut off, bring up divorce or homosexuality, among other topics, the next time you are with a group of people. Also, who walks in the law of love like the NT prescribes? Who always puts God first and their neighbor as themselves?

6. There was no oil. This is an easy one here. Does the Holy Spirit actually direct all of the affairs of the church today? If He did Christ alone would be exalted and not "gifted" speakers and innovative men directed programs. Signs and wonders and the gift of salvation always follow the Dove of Holiness!

7. The other fruit trees were cut off. Who walks in the fruit of the Spirit today? Who operates in Spirit led love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, temperance, and meekness?

8. The sheep and cattle suffer. How many churches are filled today with suffering, hurting members who are starving due to lack of personal commitment to Christ? Also, the ministry was not operating effectively due to the lack of the grain and drink offerings.

We are just where Paul told the Thessalonians we would be. "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;..." 2 Thessalonians 2:3 Spiritually, we are where Joel was too. Between a spiritual drought and the Tribulation. Thank God for the second chapter of Joel! Between these two events, God does a sovereign work. However, we need to do our part. What is our part?

Joel was written in a chiastic structure.  The center point of this structure is Joel 2:12-17.  There has to be repentance before moving on to the greater promises of the book.  All know that this book prophesied
 a last days outpouring; however, the entire stress in the book is on turning around.  Just 1 verse from the time of repentance and His blessing is restored and His Holy Spirit is sent.  So what is our part in bringing true renewal?
•Rend your hearts and not your garments
•Sound the shofar for battle
•Fast and pray

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Get Moses Out of the Way--The Peril of Preacher Religion

And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.
Exodus 20:19

What an invitation!  God was calling an entire nation to have a close personal relationship with Him.  Again, what an invitation!  However, Israel rejected His prompting and chose to have the "preacher" draw close to GOD for them--relationship by proxy.  The sad fact is that they never learned about the LORD for themselves, they chose to have another walk in their anointing, and their lack of the knowledge of the LORD and His teaching led them in ways that was an affront to the holiness of God.  The record of their calamity is for our example so that we will not walk along that same treacherous trail, but scripture clearly warns those living in the last days of this age repeat their folly.  " For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (2 Timothy 4:3-4)."

Don't get me wrong, having a godly pastor and ministerial staff is important.  Moses was all that and more to those wilderness wanderers.  God raised him to be a mighty leader through years of training in the courts of Pharaoh and the pastures of Midian.  His leadership was rock solid because his skills were honed by the Rock, Himself.  There is a limitation to what godly leaders can do, nevertheless.  They cannot do your praying for you.  They cannot study the Word personally for you.  They cannot lead your family at times of family devotion for you. They cannot adequately train your children nor enhance your marriage for you. They cannot filter out the distractions that stand in the way of your relationship with God and others.  They cannot draw close to God for you.  Simply put, they cannot live out your dependence on the LORD while you sit by and warm a pew.

The Almighty is absolutely amazing!  His power is unmatched, His presence is limitless, His understanding is immeasurable, and His person is unchanging.  As the church, He wills for us the exact same relationship extended to those who witnessed the miracles in the Exodus.   "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light...(1 Peter 2:9)."  It just may be God's glorious power that makes us fear and draw back from Him.  Like the Israelites, we are apprehensive as we get close to the LORD.  Is this not what happened in Exodus 20?  As the awesome power of El Shaddai began to rumble the mountainside in a gracious and glorious display meant to ease their fears about His strength, guidance, and providence, the people cried out in fear.  They chose to allow someone else to experience His presence and rejected the voice of the LORD at a personal level.  They promised to listen to God via Moses, but the truth is that they never listened because they failed to get to know God for themselves.  "... but let not God speak with us, lest we die."

Who was used to change the Nile to blood?  Who spoke for God and sent the plagues of frogs, flies, and locusts?  Who heard from God and gave instruction for the first Passover?  Whose staff was raised as the sea rolled back?  Who saw the heavenly shadows of Messiah in the Tabernacle?  Moses! Moses! Moses! Moses!  Moses!  Always Moses!  Why do we not read of the exploits of others like we do in Acts?  We want the miracles if someone else labors in prayer.  We want the fresh bread of the Word if someone else does the study. We are a culture of ease wanting things to always go smooth and painless.  God, however, has called us to do valiant deeds in Christ through the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Don't you want to lead many souls to Him?  Don't you want the LORD to unlock greats truths in study?  Don't you want to pray and see the miraculous?  Don't you want to see the enemy flee as you call out in prayer?  Don't you want to pray the enemies of friends and family away and see their deliverance?  You! You! You! You! You! Let it be you in Christ and not another for you!

Exodus 32 reveals a horrid problem with preacher religion.  It can lead to false notions about God.  It manifests itself as impatience with the preacher when things do not go the way we think they should.  Why should they go "our way" when we cannot pray and draw close to God for ourselves.  When Moses was enjoying a mountain top experience a bit too long, the people got a bit too antsy and called for a replacement.  Not just a replacement of the preacher, but a replacement of God, Himself.  Their lack of a personal relationship led to a situation that caused them never to fully appreciate the holiness and majestic power of the LORD.  They never learned of His awesome, sovereign strength for themselves, and they failed to heed the Word they promised in the verse above to enact.  They made God a "thing" after their ideas, a god that they could control and manipulate.  Would this have happened had they sought out His awesomeness for themselves, learned His ways for themselves, and drew near to His heart for themselves?  It is doubtful!  And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.

Israel and Judah could not even recognize the LORD in the day He walked this earth as a man.  A greater than Moses, and Solomon, and Jonah was among them and they could not see but they could not see past Moses, Solomon, and Jonah.  The fulfillment of Abraham's promise, Isaac's dream, and the blessing of Israel was among them and He was missed. They could not see past Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.  A greater than all of those great leaders is speaking to you even now, can you hear Him for yourself or do you need another to speak to your heart for Him?  He wants to know you!  He is knocking--let Him in.  The Spirit of Jesus Christ is there with you now and His physical presence is Soon2Come!

We will have to revisit Paul's warning of heaping teachers in the last days!  Blessings in the LORD!

Signs of the Times

Monday, September 3, 2012

So What Are You Building?

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
1 Corinthians 9:24

The word reminds us through precept and example to finish well.  Paul used the word picture of a race to convey this message.  The Bible also gives us many examples to emulate; however, it also gives us many examples to deviate from.  Giving both good and bad illustrations, God wants us to learn to run the race of life in Christ and end it well.  Thank God for grace!  Again, I say, thank God for grace.  Yet thank Him also for the grace of sharing truth in the lives of even the greatest of saints so that we can avoid their failures and finish well.  Thank Him for the grace that keeps us running well and obtaining all we can in Him!

One of those great saints has to be Noah.  Who has not been inspired by the man who lived in a civilization so vile and degraded that God saw the need to send the flood and cleanse the world  from such sinfulness?  Imagine how it must have been building a boat so large while being railed, mocked, and jeered.  The pressure of his neighbors and friends must have been intense, but His obedience to God was even more intense.  He will forever be immortalized as the obedient boat builder.  He not only built boats, he also built altars (see Genesis 8:20).  It was his altar building, a sign of a close and intimate relationship with the LORD, that  saved his family.  His righteous was a blessing to them all. 

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

Hebrews 11:7

Scripture also records an event in Noah's life that is often overlooked which occurred after the flood.  Noah created a situation that brought a curse on a portion of his family.  He should have stayed at the altar, but the Bible records that he also planted a vineyard.  A vineyard is a place planted for personal pleasure. God recorded its planting to teach us to beware once we have had a great victory.  This is a time where many let their guard down. They have triumphantly overcame a great trial.  Rather than stay on guard, they feel that just a bit of play won't hurt.  It is at these vulnerable times that testimonies can be marred and curses can be inflicted.  Be careful! 

And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.

Genesis 9:20-21

Genesis 9 goes on to tell us that Noah's son Ham saw his drunken, naked father.  I wonder what it did to his view of the man he knew who spent so much time at the altar?  What a testimony troubler!  It also seems that Ham's son, Canaan, also saw the scene.  Canaan is forever cursed due to this mess.  It was Noah, however, who was ultimately to blame.  Had he not went pleasure seeking, stayed SOBER and vigilant, surely he would have seen the enemies plot to curse a family so blessed of the LORD.

So many today are following the bad example of Noah.  Church is neglected for the lake.  The altar is neglected  for the television.  Godly giving is neglected to sate with this world's temporary goods.  Business trumps Bible study.  Choir practice cancels personal devotion and worship.  Sermon study tops private study.  Temptations topple devotion and obedience.  There are just so many "vineyards" out there and they are different for us all.  Yet each one has the potential to wreak the same havoc as did Noah's.  The sad thing is that the cause of the curse is often not seen as the result of pursuing personal pleasures over promoting our personal relationship with God.

I feel like praying to end this one.  "Father, help us to see our hearts with your eyes.  We often cannot connect our actions with later repercussions.  We also have the terrible tendency to justify our actions and make wrong seem right.  Help us, then, by allowing the Holy Spirit to illuminate any vineyards we are planting in our lives.  Help us to see those areas where we are following our desires and not yours.  Make us to see our need to rely continually on the cross and to stay at the feet of our Savior, Jesus.  Help us as we know that Jesus Christ is Soon2Come.  Amen"