Genesis 12

Vs. 1, “The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”  The LORD (Yahweh – personal name of God the Father), would call Abram to the land of milk and honey (Canaan).  It’s interesting to note that Abram was already half-way there as his family had made it to Haran.  But, the LORD would call Abram to leave all that was in the past and forge ahead to a new land.  Through one man, God would bless the whole world (vs. 1-3), and even more fulfilled in Jesus!  Abram and his family (along with his nephew Lot) would travel southwest into the land of Canaan (Ham’s descendant’s).  This all transpired approximately 2100 B.C.  We see the LORD appear to Abram (vs. 7) with reassurance.  Question: Why would Abram go south to the Negev(vs. 9)?  Since the land was inhabited by the Canaanites, Abram and his large family and servants needed more room.  Famines in the land were not uncommon at times in Canaan, so Abram would go to Egypt where there was often an abundant supply (vs. 10-20).  While we can credit Abram’s faith, here we are reminded he was not by any means perfect (vs. 11-13) as he reverted to deception and did not trust the LORD would have been able to protect.  But, God would intervene (vs. 17) to protect Sarai (love it)!  Sarah means Princess.  Gentlemen, we should always be willing to protect the princesses in our lives!

Regarding application…Being Blessed.  Vs. 2, “I will make you into a great nation,and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”  God blesses us, we bless God, and we can bless each other.  Question: What does it mean to be “blessed?”  Blessing is essentially the idea of showing favor and praise.  Question: Are we blessing God, Are we blessing each other?  Our words, our thoughts and our actions show evidence of whether we are truly people who are living a blessed life.  God cannot bless your life if you are not willing to trust God!  I finished up a week of VBS and we were reminded of, “no matter who you are…no matter how you feel…no matter what happens…Trust God!”  We have such awesome privileges to be a blessing, don’t waste them!  Take the time today to remember the many blessings from the LORD and be a blessing to another!

Haggai 2

Vs. 4, “But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”  From yesterday’s chapter, there has been about 7 weeks of time that have transpired.  The people have begun the difficult work rebuilding from the rubble again.  Naturally, they were getting discouraged again.  So God would use Haggai to once again bring encouragement to spur the people on (vs. 1-9).  Another two months go by (vs. 10-19), and there is still discouragement.  Question: What was happening?  Haggai would address God’s people because they were bringing offerings, but there was unconfessed sin in their hearts.  Their sin caused their offerings to be defiled (vs. 14).  In other words, If you’re healthy…you can’t pass your healthiness on to someone.  But if you are sick, you can pass on your sickness.  We must carefully consider our actions and lives (vs. 15).  Lastly, Haggai turns his attention to Zerubbabel, Israel’s governor (vs. 20-23).  Basically, God just wanted Zerubbabel to know that He’s got his back.  Through Zerubbabel, the LORD makes some big claims that eventually will be fulfilled by Jesus.  Zerubbabel is mentioned in the lineage of Christ in the two New Testament genealogies (Matthew 1:12, Luke 3:27).

Regarding application…Do Not Fear.  Vs. 5, “This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.”  It’s important to realize that God wasn’t asking His people to do this alone.  We live in a time where we are judged by our individual successes or failures.  It’s a dog eat dog world.  But as God’s redeemed, we are not alone on two fronts.  The first is the promised Holy Spirit fulfilled at Pentecost (Acts 2).  And the second is that we are in community (church).  We are never alone, or at least we shouldn’t try to be or think we are.  The implication is huge when we think about the tasks that God has given to us.  For Haggai’s time, they were rebuilding the temple.  For our time, we are building the church.

Haggai 1

Vs. 4, “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin.”  The returning remnant of God’s people lived in a time not unlike our own.  There was political and financial instability.  Times were tough and the harvest/economy didn’t look good (vs. 6).  Question: Why was this happening?  Because ultimately God is in control (vs. 7-11) and their lack of priority helped bring their current lacking.  Zerubbabel was the grandson of King Jehoiachin of Judah and served as governor during the restoration of the temple.  Joshua was the current High Priest and he drew his lineage back ultimately to Aaron.  This was important to mention for Haggai, for it gives legitimacy to the authority of the rebuilding.

Regarding application…Which Way?  Vs. 7, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.”  Question: Which way are you going to choose?  God’s promise of saving His remnant and returning to Jerusalem came true.  Yet, the returning captives began to grow complacent.  They allowed the enemy and their own selfish priorities to come first.  God called them to build His temple.  God calls us to build His church.  While we live in our own nice houses (vs. 4), God’s church is hurting.  Brothers and sisters, it’s time to be builders!  We can go down our own path or choose the road less traveled.  Question: Which way will you choose?

Zephaniah 3

Vs. 7, “Of Jerusalem I thought, ‘Surely you will fear me and accept correction!’ Then her place of refuge would not be destroyed, nor all my punishments come upon her. But they were still eager to act corruptly in all they did.”  Sadly, though the surrounding nations would receive their due punishment, Jerusalem/Judah would not be without their own consequences (vs. 1-8).  They did not obey (vs. 2), they were corrupt and treacherous, and ultimately had no fear of God (vs. 7).  Question: What would the LORD do?  He will bring His consuming fire to judge the nations and His people (vs. 8).  Yet, this consuming fire of God also has another purpose.  This fire will purify the remnant of those who call upon the name of the Lord (vs. 9).  Years later after the Babylonian captivity, God’s people (a remnant) would return to the land.  As we continue on in this last chapter, we see the LORD speaking to His people, but now makes it personal and we see a first-person approach (vs. 14-20).  Zephaniah’s last chapter really speaks of much of what Jesus fulfilled as we are reminded of a mighty warrior (vs. 17) who saves and that the LORD God is with His people.

Regarding application…The Hope of Home.  Vs. 20, “At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home.”  I’m reminded of Dorothy’s words as she declared, “There’s no place like home,” in the Wizard of Oz.  Our lives on earth are but a temporary dwelling place.  Like Zephaniah’s time, we live in a world of corruption and increasing sin.  Question: How do we deal with all of this?  Remember the promises of God in His Word.  When Jesus came, He only continued to build upon these prophecies of the Old Testament about keeping our perspective.  As Jesus was preparing to go home to be with the Father, He promised us that He is preparing our new home (John 14)!  My family and I are now looking for a new home closer to our church.  It’s going to be a lot of work packing and moving.  But, what a great feeling it will be to be in our new home that will be much closer to church.  How much more than will this feeling be when we are finally at our true home?  There is much hope brothers and sisters!

Zephaniah 2

Vs. 11, “The Lord will be awesome to them when he destroys all the gods of the earth. Distant nations will bow down to him, all of them in their own lands.”  Throughout our chapter today, we see the LORD give hope to those in Judah who might repent.  For the nations that surround Judah; Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Cush (Ethiopia) and Assyria will be conquered.  Philistia was located on the coastline of the land of Canaan and has been enemies of Israel/Judah since the time of King David (vs. 4-7).  Palestine came from the word Philistine.  Zephaniah then turns us to Judah’s neighbors on the east of the Jordan: Moab & Ammon (vs. 8-11).  Moab & Ammon trace their lineage to Abraham’s cousin Lot (Genesis 19:37-38).  God would use the Babylonians to bring punishment upon them for their taunts.  We then see the LORD look to the south against the Cushites (Ethiopians) (vs. 12) for their actions.  And lastly, the evil Assyrians also will be judged (vs. 13-15).  It was hard for anyone to even think that this great empire would be defeated.  But the bigger you are, the harder you fall!

Regarding application…Seek the LORD.  Vs. 3, “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.”  Side note: Anytime you see the capital “LORD” in the Old Testament, it refers to Yahweh (“Self-existent).  The Jews didn’t ever even want to mention the name because of how holy the LORD is, so they often used Adonai and they meshed the words together and got Jehovah by replacing Yahweh’s vowels with Adonai’s vowels.  Moving on to our application, we see Zephaniah speak of a hope!  And the LORD knew that we needed hope after a very wrathful first chapter.  Notice how hope in the context of our passage is God bringing consequences to the evil nations around His people.  These calamities should gather everyone together (vs. 1).  We seek many things in this life that can bring temporary satisfaction.  But only seeking after the LORD will bring the ultimate source of hope and life.  Seek after the Lord each day.  Find peace in knowing that we are not alone on this journey of life.

Micah 7

Vs. 1, “What misery is mine! I am like one who gathers summer fruit at the gleaning of the vineyard; there is no cluster of grapes to eat, none of the early figs that I crave.”  Question: What is Micah doing as we close this chapter and book?  Micah is lamenting (expressing sorrow) over God’s people.  All these years of being a prophet for God, he looks at the spiritual decline and can’t help but be sorrowful (vs. 1-6).  It gets so bad that Micah feels he may be the only righteous person left (vs. 2).  He describes the evil deeds of the leaders (vs. 3) and how their influence has even caused dishonesty within the family unit (vs. 5-6).  The influence of leaders certainly can have a negative affect.  Yet, Micah still puts his hope in the Lord and see’s a future time when God will deliver them from the Babylonians (vs. 8-10).  But, Micah also looks to a future time that hasn’t even happened yet in our own lives (vs. 11-13).  Micah also shows us the Shepherd picture he prays for God’s people (vs. 14).  God will one day humble the evil nations (vs. 15-17).  And lastly, like other lament prayers in the bible, Micah is reminded of God’s enduring goodness, faithfulness and compassion (vs. 18-20).

Regarding application…Nothing Compares to God.  Vs. 18, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance?”  After it is all said and done, Micah realizes that nothing can compare to our God!  During worship this Sunday, we sang the song “Our God (is greater)” by Chris Tomlin!  Our God is greater, our God is stronger, God you are higher than any other~~~  This was Micah’s purpose; to bring people closer to God.  That is why we read the Living Word.  It gives us a perspective that no matter how great our worries or struggles, God is bigger!  Question: Are you trusting in the Lord today?  As we begin a new week, I pray that we would be ready to declare God in our lives!  While we certainly can get discouraged like Micah did earlier in our chapter, let us hold firm to God’s promises!

Micah 6

Vs. 2, “Hear, O mountains, the Lord’s accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth. For the Lord has a case against his people; he is lodging a charge against Israel.”  In this chapter, we are given a picture of a courtroom with God bringing accusations (lawsuit) to His own people.  Question: What have I done to you (vs. 3)?  An appropriate question because all we see is the faithfulness of Yahweh over the centuries (vs. 4-5).  Micah records the response of the people as they clearly think they are in the right (vs. 6-7), but their outward piety is not want God desires.  We will examine the beautiful answer in verse 8 in the application section.  Moving on in our chapter, we are given insight to some specific accusations of dishonesty by the leaders who resided in Jerusalem (vs. 9-12).  And since this is a courtroom scene, we have the final verdict: Guilty as charged (vs. 13-16)!  We sometimes take God’s faithfulness for granted and forget that there are also consequences for our actions.

Regarding application…Walking with God.  Vs. 8, “He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  Sometimes the Bible can be overwhelming with trying to figure out what God desires of us.  In this well known passage, we are instructed to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly.  A perfect three point message sermon!  Instead of telling us the negatives about what not to do, we see three positive things to do.  When we are walking with God the Hebrew concept gives us a picture of walking by faith.  Question: When was the last time you took a walk with God?  The people of Judah thought that all their tithes and offerings were meeting the standard of what God wanted.  But they had forgotten the importance of simple fellowship and relationship with the Lord.  Take time today to slow down in life and pray that you would be this type of person that God is seeking in our application today!

 

Micah 5

Vs. 2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”  In the midst of the Assyrians at the doorsteps of Judah, Micah breaks out a prophecy of hope (vs. 1-5).  A ruler over Israel is none other than Jesus, the Messiah!  The small town of Bethlehem (House of bread) would be the birthplace of King David and later the King of Kings, Jesus.  Though there will still be tough times (vs. 3), God ensures His people realize that not all hope is lost.  Though the enemy will scatter God’s people, He will bless the remnant (small amount of people remaining faithful to God) who will be taken into exile (vs. 5-9).  In the last section of our chapter, we see Micah list some of the things (horses, chariots, strongholds, witchcraft, carved images, Asherah poles) that the people were putting their trust in rather than God (vs. 10-15).

Regarding application…Are you trusting God?  Vs. 10, “In that day,” declares the Lord, “I will destroy your horses from among you and demolish your chariots.”  We just read in the last six verses the things that Judah had been putting their trust in.  I wonder what kind of list we would have in our lives today (reputation, security, insurance, horoscopes, media, wealth)?  As Micah reminded us of Jesus today, that also reminds me of what Jesus would tell us about the time we live in.  We are told we will live in a time like the days of Noah (Matthew 24), where evil will exist and many will put their trust in the things of this world.  Brothers and sisters in Christ, we too have a hope of the Messiah coming for a second time!  Let us be people who are ready and putting our trust in His promises!  After Jesus’ warnings of the end times, He gave them the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) as a reminder to always be ready and ensure we are trusting in the Lord in all things!

Micah 4

Vs. 1, “In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it.”  Quite a contrast from yesterday’s chapter, huh?  Question: Just when are these “last days” that Micah is pointing to (vs. 1-8)?  Scholar’s and Pastor’s have differing views on their understanding of when this time transpired.  Some believe it is the time before the Assyrian King Sennacherib, who would come to try to defeat Jerusalem in 701 bc.  Others believe Micah is speaking of a time building up to the Tribulation and the thousand-year reign of Christ.  In the latter half of our chapter, Micah points towards the events that would transpire to his people Judah as the impending Babylonian exile was near (vs. 9-10).  The pagan nations gloat and do not realize what God will do (vs. 11-13).

Regarding application…We are not Forgotten.  Vs. 6, “In that day,” declares the Lord, “I will gather the lame; I will assemble the exiles and those I have brought to grief.”  This application reminds me of what Peter would exhort us about in II Peter 3, when scoffers will challenge the Christians about where is God?  Why hasn’t he come back?  Question: Do you feel forgotten?  Do you feel like there are times when God is silent in your life?  We live in a world filled with pain and suffering.   While we are not Micah’s direct audience who would be exiled, we still have our own feelings of loneliness and self-worth.  But, despite our feelings, we have promises that stand the test of our human finite time.  We have a God who will never forget us!  You have a God who will never forget you.

Micah 3

Vs. 4, “Then they will cry out to the Lord, but he will not answer them. At that time he will hide his face from them because of the evil they have done.”  Those that cry out are the political and civic leaders of Israel & Judah (vs. 1).  The atrocities are grotesque (vs. 2-3), but fortunately are a metaphor for what their evil ways.  They treated people no better than a butcher would an animal or a wild animal devouring its prey.  They used their power for their own purposes, but God would not allow this injustice to go unnoticed (vs. 5-12).  There were also the false prophets who were taking bribes of money (vs. 5).  To make matters worse, they cover up their sins and pretend to put their trust in Yahweh.

Regarding application…Do You Hear God?  Vs. 7, “The seers will be ashamed and the diviners disgraced. They will all cover their faces because there is no answer from God.”  This chapter is not an easy one because of the prophecies of doom.  Many of those Micah is addressing stated they believed in God, but their hearts were evil.  They prayed with selfish hearts and wondered why God was not hearing them.  Bill Hybels in one of his books on prayer stated that God answers our prayers in four ways: Go, No, Slow, Grow.  For the leaders and prophets, they didn’t hear anything from God.  For believers today, God does answer all of our prayers!  We just need to be receptive and spiritually tuned into God to hear His response!  Question: Do you hear God?  Spend time in prayer and check your own heart so that God’s voice can be heard!