Throwback Thursday, Trust

Throwback Thursday ~ Shall Not the Judge of All the Earth Do What Is Just*?

Originally published July 8, 2014judge

Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones,
and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him.
Numbers 31:17

That’s a pretty tough verse, isn’t it?

Married women. Widows. Little boys.

When I read that verse, I think of somebody like me. Or, somebody like my ten year old. It’s hard for me to put myself in a Midianite woman’s sandals and imagine the Israelites coming for my son. My son, who’s basically a good kid, and certainly hasn’t done anything worthy of an army coming after him to execute him.

Do you ever follow criminal trials in the news? With 24-hour news channels and courtroom TV channels, we’ve probably all watched for the verdicts of a few. Have you ever been surprised by a jury’s verdict or a judge’s sentence? Maybe you were certain the defendant was guilty, but the jury acquitted him. Or, you figured a life sentence was a sure thing but only a few years were handed down.

It’s easy to lambaste a judge or jury for making what we consider to be the wrong decision. But, think about it: that judge and jury sat through hours of testimony, legal arguments, instruction on the law, and presentation of evidence. They know much more about the case and all the players in it than we do. They know things we don’t know. And those things we’re ignorant about are likely the very things that led them to make a different decision than we, with our limited knowledge of the case, would have made.

What if your spouse, parent, or best friend had been a juror in one of those cases in which you were appalled at the verdict, and he had voted opposite the way you thought he should have? What if he told you, “Look, I’ve been told not to discuss the case, but, trust me, this was the right decision.”? Would you trust him?

It’s the same way with God.

We come to passages like this one, and our first reaction is righteous indignation. How could God make a decision like this? It seems so unjust. An arbitrary, capricious, and callous verdict. It’s easy to throw stones thousands of years later.

But, if God is God, He is, by definition, absolutely perfect in justice, perfect in love, perfect in mercy, perfect in patience, perfect in wisdom, and perfect in His knowledge of every detail of every situation on earth, ever, including people’s thoughts and intentions. He never makes a wrong decision. If He were lacking one iota in any of these areas, He would cease to be God, and there would be no reason to trust Him.

But He isn’t. So we can.

We generally trust human judges and juries to carry out justice in the cases they’re assigned, despite the fact that we know of cases of judges who have been bribed, juries that have been tampered with, defendants who have been framed, and jurors who vote guilty based on race, sex, status, or some other irrelevant condition.

But God doesn’t fall into any of those categories. He is the perfect Judge, able to mete out perfect justice, because He’s also the perfect eyewitness. He knew everything about the case of the Midianites because He saw each of them, and everything that was going on in the world around them, inside and out.

I can’t say that about my knowledge of this case. Can you?

God’s not discussing the case of the Midianites with us, but, “Trust Me,” He says, “This was the right decision.”

He’s got a pretty good track record of being right. I’m going to trust Him on this one since I don’t know all the details. How about you?

*Genesis 18:25

Have you ever found it hard to trust God
because of a difficult passage of Scripture?


THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT SATISFACTION THROUGH CHRIST.
Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word ~ Zephaniah 1

zeph 1 2

Zephaniah 1

The word of the Lord that came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.

“I will utterly sweep away everything
    from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.
“I will sweep away man and beast;
    I will sweep away the birds of the heavens
    and the fish of the sea,
and the rubble with the wicked.
    I will cut off mankind
    from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.
“I will stretch out my hand against Judah
    and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal
    and the name of the idolatrous priests along with the priests,
those who bow down on the roofs
    to the host of the heavens,
those who bow down and swear to the Lord
    and yet swear by Milcom,
those who have turned back from following the Lord,
    who do not seek the Lord or inquire of him.”

Be silent before the Lord God!
    For the day of the Lord is near;
the Lord has prepared a sacrifice
    and consecrated his guests.
And on the day of the Lord‘s sacrifice—
“I will punish the officials and the king’s sons
    and all who array themselves in foreign attire.
On that day I will punish
    everyone who leaps over the threshold,
and those who fill their master’s house
    with violence and fraud.

10 “On that day,” declares the Lord,
    “a cry will be heard from the Fish Gate,
a wail from the Second Quarter,
    a loud crash from the hills.
11 Wail, O inhabitants of the Mortar!
    For all the traders are no more;
    all who weigh out silver are cut off.
12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,
    and I will punish the men
who are complacent,
    those who say in their hearts,
‘The Lord will not do good,
    nor will he do ill.’
13 Their goods shall be plundered,
    and their houses laid waste.
Though they build houses,
    they shall not inhabit them;
though they plant vineyards,
    they shall not drink wine from them.”

14 The great day of the Lord is near,
    near and hastening fast;
the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter;
    the mighty man cries aloud there.
15 A day of wrath is that day,
    a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
    a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness,
16     a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
against the fortified cities
    and against the lofty battlements.

17 I will bring distress on mankind,
    so that they shall walk like the blind,
    because they have sinned against the Lord;
their blood shall be poured out like dust,
    and their flesh like dung.
18 Neither their silver nor their gold
    shall be able to deliver them
    on the day of the wrath of the Lord.
In the fire of his jealousy,
    all the earth shall be consumed;
for a full and sudden end
    he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Questions to Consider:

1. Who wrote the book of Zephaniah? Which genre of biblical literature is this book? Who was the intended audience of the book? What is the theme or purposed of this book?

2. What is the theme of Zephaniah 1? Which aspect of God’s character does this chapter showcase? Sometimes people think of God as wrathful in the Old Testment and loving in the New Testament. Is this true? How can God be good, loving, and wrathful all at the same time? How does God’s wrath demonstrate His goodness?

3. During which king’s reign did Zephaniah prophesy? (1) What impact might his prophecy have had on the king, and, through the king’s actions, on the people?

4. What is the sin the priests are committing in verses 4-6? Verse 5 says the priests “bow down and swear to the Lord.” Who else does it say they bow and swear to? Why would this anger God? Which Scriptures are the priests violating?

5. How do verses 14-18 describe the “great day of the Lord” (the day of judgment)? List the descriptors following the phrase “a day of…” in verses 15-16. Why will God bring judgment on the earth? (17) Why do Christians not need to fear God’s judgment and wrath against sin?

Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word ~ Nahum 1

nahum 1 7

Nahum 1

An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh.

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God;
    the Lord is avenging and wrathful;
the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries
    and keeps wrath for his enemies.
The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
    and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.
His way is in whirlwind and storm,
    and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
He rebukes the sea and makes it dry;
    he dries up all the rivers;
Bashan and Carmel wither;
    the bloom of Lebanon withers.
The mountains quake before him;
    the hills melt;
the earth heaves before him,
    the world and all who dwell in it.

Who can stand before his indignation?
    Who can endure the heat of his anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire,
    and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.
The Lord is good,
    a stronghold in the day of trouble;
he knows those who take refuge in him.
    But with an overflowing flood
he will make a complete end of the adversaries,
    and will pursue his enemies into darkness.
What do you plot against the Lord?
    He will make a complete end;
    trouble will not rise up a second time.
10 For they are like entangled thorns,
    like drunkards as they drink;
    they are consumed like stubble fully dried.
11 From you came one
    who plotted evil against the Lord,
    a worthless counselor.

12 Thus says the Lord,
“Though they are at full strength and many,
    they will be cut down and pass away.
Though I have afflicted you,
    I will afflict you no more.
13 And now I will break his yoke from off you
    and will burst your bonds apart.”

14 The Lord has given commandment about you:
    “No more shall your name be perpetuated;
from the house of your gods I will cut off
    the carved image and the metal image.
I will make your grave, for you are vile.”

15 Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him
    who brings good news,
    who publishes peace!
Keep your feasts, O Judah;
    fulfill your vows,
for never again shall the worthless pass through you;
    he is utterly cut off.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider:

1. Which genre of biblical literature (epistle, wisdom, prophecy, historical narrative, etc.) is the book of Nahum? The theme of Nahum is God’s judgment against which people? (1) Which book of the Bible would you read to find out more about God’s dealings with Nineveh?

2. Why was God going to execute judgment on Nineveh? (8,11,14) How and why would God’s judgment of Nineveh have been a comfort to Judah? (12-13,15)

3. Verses 1-3a and 6 highlight which attribute of God’s nature? Verses 3b-5 showcase His power over what? What emotion and response are these verses designed to evoke from the enemies of God? From God’s people, Judah? How can it be a comfort to Christians to know that God will one day judge His enemies?

4. What does verse 7 say about the nature and character of God? Does this contradict the previous six verses showcasing His wrath and power? Why not? How can God be simultaneously good and wrathful? Would it be right to say that God’s wrath against sin demonstrates His goodness?

5. Compare verse 3 to Jonah 3 and 2 Peter 3:9. What do all of these passages teach us about God’s patience towards sinners and His desire for them to repent? Is God’s patience ever an excuse to put off salvation or obedience to Him?

Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word ~ Malachi 4

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Malachi 4

“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.

“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come andstrike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


 

Questions To Consider:

1. Which genre (history, wisdom, poetry, prophecy, epistle, etc.) is the book of Malachi? What is the overall tone or theme of this chapter?

2. Some prophecies have a “near” meaning (something that will happen in the near future to the people the prophet is currently talking to), some have a “far” meaning (something that will happen far in the future in another context), and some have both. Which would you say is the case for this passage? In either or both cases, who is the audience for this prophecy? What is the near and/or far meaning?

3. How does God contrast the wicked with those who fear the Lord in verses 1-3? Why does God say to “Remember the law of my servant Moses…”? (4) How does verse 4 fit with verses 1-3?

4. What are some possible connections between verses 5-6 and Luke 1:13, 16-17, Matthew 11:13-14, and Revelation 11:3?

5. What are some general truths we can learn from this passage as we look ahead to Christ’s second coming?

1 John Bible Study

Am I Really Saved?: A First John Check Up ~ Lesson 7: Fear and False Teachers

1 John Study

Am I Really Saved? A First John Check Up
Lesson 7: Fear and False Teachers
Please Read: 1 John 4

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
2 Corinthians 13:5

1 John 4:1-6

Am I Really Saved? Checkpoint 13: Do I follow false teachers?

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

I’m always dumbfounded when I hear Christian women say – in response to being told their favorite false teacher is a false teacher – something to the effect of, “You’re so negative, judgmental, and nit picky. Jesus just said to love people and not to worry so much about whether their theology is different from yours.”

It always makes me wonder if they’ve ever actually read the New Testament, because that’s absolutely not what Jesus said while He was on earth, and it’s the exact opposite of what God the Holy Spirit spends so much time saying in the balance of the New Testament. This passage of First John is just one of dozens which warn us away from false teachers.

  • Which Spirit is controlling true Christian teachers? What spirit is controlling false teachers according to verse 3? True or false: If you’re following a false teacher, you’re following a demonic spirit.
  • What does it mean to “test the spirits”? (v1) How did the noble Bereans test the spirits?
  • What do verses 2-3 tell us is the first, most basic test of whether or not someone is a false teacher? What does verse 5 tell us is an indication of a false teacher? Are these the only tests for a false teacher?
  • To whom do the words “we” and “us” refer in verse 6? According to verse 6, do false teachers listen to and teach the same things the apostles taught? How does verse 6 work hand in hand with Galatians 1:6-9?
  • According to verse 6, if you willfully disregard apostolic (biblical) teaching in favor of false teaching, are you really a Christian? Do you argue with people who can demonstrate to you from (rightly handled) Scripture that you’re following a false teacher?

1 John 4:7-12

Am I Really Saved? Checkpoint 14: Is my motivation for love Christocentric?

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

If you could state the theme John’s teaching in one word, what would it be? My answer would be “love.” In his gospel, his three epistles, even in Revelation, the concept of love permeates John’s writing. And here again, John draws our attention back to it. The facet of love he focuses on this time is the motivation behind our love for others.

  • According to verses 7-8, who defines, originates, and is the embodiment of, love? How does this tell Christians Who and what is to motivate any love that we might feel or show to others? Is the “love” that non-Christians feel or show to others motivated by God or by other factors such as affection, selfishness, lust, etc.? Can you truly love others if you do not know God?
  • If the love you show others is not motivated by God, are you really saved?
  • In verses 9-10, what is the ultimate definition and demonstration (what action did God take) of the phrase “God is love”?
  • The word “so” in verse 11 takes us back to God’s ultimate demonstration of love for us in verses 9-10. Think about the people in your life. What are some practical ways you can “so love” one another the way God, through Christ, loved you?
  • Verse 12 tells us “no one has ever seen God.” How can the world know of God’s love if they have never seen Him? What does the remainder of the verse tell us about how they are to learn of God’s love?

1 John 4:13-15

Am I Really Saved? Checkpoint 15: Do my words and actions confess Christ?

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

  • How do we know, according to verse 13, that we belong to Christ? How can we tell if we have the Spirit? In what ways do our actions show that we have the Holy Spirit?
  • John says he and his fellow Christians testify about Jesus. (14) They verbally proclaim salvation through Christ to others. This is a mark of the Christian. Do you share the gospel with others? If not, are you really saved?
  • Does verse 15 mean that anyone who says the words, “Jesus is the Son of God,” is a Christian? What does it mean to “confess” Jesus? Is it just the words we say or is there more to it? What role does the heart play in this confession?

1 John 4:16-21

Am I Really Saved? Checkpoint 16: Am I afraid of God’s judgment?

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Verse 16 makes an interesting statement: “we have come to know AND to believe the love that God has for us.”

  • What is the difference between knowing God’s love for you and believing God’s love for you? Do you both know AND believe God’s love for you?

Verses 17-18 talk about “perfect” love and being “perfected” in love, but will we ever love God perfectly, or perfectly know and believe His love for us? Not this side of Heaven. Thank goodness these verses aren’t about our imperfect love for Christ, but, rather, Christ’s perfect love for us! The Greek word translated as perfect or perfected means to accomplish or consecrate, to carry through completely, to add what is yet wanting in order to render a thing full. In other words, Christ’s love is accomplished or made full in you when He saves you.

  • What does the perfect, saving love of Christ give us, according to the middle part of verse 17? What does the last part of the verse, “as he is so also are we in this world” mean? Who is “he”? Why would this give us confidence for the day of judgment?
  • What word does verse 18 use to convey the opposite of confidence (17)? While Christians will have confidence and face God’s judgment without fear because we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ, how will lost people feel about facing God’s judgment? What do they fear according to the first part of the second sentence of verse 18? What punishment will lost people face?
  • What does our love (or lack of love) for others say about whether or not we truly know God? (20) What does verse 20 call people who claim to love God but do not love others? Are such people saved?

 

This week we’ve looked at four more checkpoints in our “Am I Really Saved?” study:

Do I follow false teachers?

Is my motivation for love Christocentric?

Do my words and actions confess Christ?

Am I afraid of God’s judgment?

Saved people don’t cling stubbornly to false teachers. They can usually sense when a teacher is “off” in some way, even if they can’t quite put their finger on what’s wrong. They welcome, rather than argue against, people who show them, from Scripture, why a false teacher is false. Their love for others springs from Christ’s love for them, and their words, actions and attitudes confess the Christ who lives in their hearts. They have no fear of God’s judgment and long to see their precious Savior.

Unsaved people are drawn to false teachers and angrily fight against those who try to warn them away. They may demonstrate actions and feelings that seem like love for others, but because God is the definition of love, and they don’t know Him, they can’t truly love others. Rather than confessing Christ, their words and actions testify that they don’t know Christ, and because of this, they are fearful and uncertain about God’s judgment and the punishment they face in eternity.

Additional Resources:

1 John 4– Matthew Henry’s Commentary

Herein Is Love– by Charles Spurgeon

True or False? A Study in 1 John– at Naomi’s Table (lessons 15-16)