Read the Prophets and you will profit

Did you know that 16 out of the 39 Old Testament books are prophet books? That is almost half of the Old Testament. There are generally three things people do with the Old Testament prophets. The first thing people do is ignore them. Some people realize that it is difficult to understand so they just turn their eyes and forget that those books are there. This makes me a little sad (even though I do this) because so much is missed. The second thing people do is “read” them and use them. I put read in quotes because when these people “read” the OT prophets to use them they are looking for weapons to smash the unrighteous with. They are looking to smite the non-believer with the hammer of righteousness and justice and if you read that in Thor’s voice it is better. The last thing some people do with the OT prophets is they ponder their writings. They read them and think what am I do with this, what am I to take away from this, who are you God, and what do you think of me? This is by far the best thing to do with them in my opinion.

When we read the OT Prophets and their prophecies we must keep certain things in mind. For example, audience, time, context, culture, general situation, and fulfillment. I think it is because of these things that some choose to avoid them. There is just too much to think about and too much that is honestly foreign to us to really get something from them. However, if we just keep in mind that there are things in these books that we do not understand then we can get to the things that we can understand. Zephaniah is a great example of this.

If you read through Zephaniah, then you will probably notice it is not the most chipper book in the Bible. There is a lot of judgment going on but at the end of the book there is this beautiful verse about God being a mighty warrior who saves His people, rejoices over them bring them renewal, and delights in them with shouts of joy. Now you can just jump straight there and read the beautiful verse and I am sure you will enjoy it but there is something about a journey that makes the destination better.

If instead, you choose to read through the book you will see that God is not pleased when people call on His name and the name of other gods. You read that God has a zero-tolerance policy for worshipping Him and idols. You read that those who aim to please men are seen as low in God’s eyes. You read that He is a God with a jealous love for His people.

If you choose to read all the way through you will also read how God hates when His people are prohibited to worship Him. That God desires justice and mercy. That God is not pleased and will not always tolerate wickedness. That God says one day there will be a reckoning. Before you read about God being a mighty warrior who saves His people, rejoices over them bring them renewal, and delights in them with shouts of joy you first read about a God who says one day a cleansing will come.

So why is that important? Because the words about God being a mighty warrior who saves His people, rejoices over them bring them renewal, and delights in them with shouts of joy are meant for those who love Him. They are the message to the people who call on His name and worship Him in spirit in and truth. Now don’t misunderstand me I am not being all fire and brimstone here, but the Bible teaches that one-day God will come to rule and reign here on earth and when He does – that’s that for the wicked. In the meantime, though God is saying I am also a God who delights in my children so come be my child.

If we just jump straight to the pretty verse, we miss so much about who God is and who He wants us to be. So here is my recommendation. Pick an OT Prophet book and read it. Read it and keep these questions in mind: who are you God, and what do you think of me?

Just a thought,
Mike

A more excellent ministry

Sometimes I read the Old Testament and think “wow look how cool it was” or “people were hearing from God left and right.” But that’s just not true and in fact hearing from God was not common like we think. What’s more is that for a period when they did hear from God it was about judgement (see the prophets). We just have this idea of that is what was happening because we read the Bible like it took place in a short time period when actually the story of Abraham to Jesus is thousands of years. Moreover we think of Abraham and God sitting down and chatting all the time but really it was only a handful of times that God spoke directly to Abraham. A lot of times when we read the Bible we read what we want it to say or what we would like it to say or even what we think it says but not always what it says.

The reason I bring that up is I am re-reading Hebrews after a pretty quick read through the OT and came across Hebrews ch 8 which is fantastic. Specifically verses  6 & 7 (the rest of the chapter is pretty much a quote from Jeremiah 31) and it talks about how much better we have it.

But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.

We know that we have forgiveness of sins through Christ but we also have other things that come in that covenant. We have direct access to the throne of grace (Heb 4:6) which we can go to whenever we want. We do not have to wait for a specific time or season but when you need help you can go there all on your own because you have the Mediator. But still there is more.

You now have gifts from God like wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, other languages (tongues), and interpretation. All these things are given to us by God and yes it says “to some” but I see that as meaning more to the point of not everyone has all. The point is God gave gifts. Ephesians 4:8 says Christ gave gifts to men. But there is more.

On of the best things we have under the new covenant is knowledge of God. Specifically laid out in the new covenant is that we will be taught by God. You become a Christian and you get indwelt with that Holy Spirit (that means He takes up residence in you) and in that you get one on one teaching about God by God. Now that is awesome! God says I want to teach you about me. That is like having Bill Gates says he wants to show you how MS Office works. You cannot get a better instructor than the one who made it all.

Now as a side note to that there are a few things to keep in mind. If you want the instruction you need to read the Bible. You cannot get directions and avoid the manual. You need to pray and listen. If you want to talk to God then you actually need to talk to Him, and if you want to hear from God you need to actually listen. I know it sounds redundant but I have spoken with people who want to talk to God and hear from Him but do not want to pray or listen. Another thing you need is to spend time with other Christians. I know I said God will teach you but you need to spend time with other believers to be encouraged, and to help equip you for the work of ministry. Christianity is not a sit down and do nothing religion. You become a Christian and you get a new job title. You are now ambassador to the King of Kings. And in that some people have the ability and gifting to help encourage and equip you to do that job.

So just remember you have the better covenant, and you are now in the good o’le days. You can sit down and chat with God anytime you want so maybe you should take Him up on that offer.

Just a thought,

Mike

Reading the Old Testament

I have been thinking about the Bible and before you say well of course you have Mike let me clarify. I have been thinking about the Old Testament and what is included. You see the OT is the historical narrative of Israel from the calling and covenant made with Abraham to the end of the exile. That is somewhere around 2000-2500 years of history give or take but the exact time is not really all that important to this discussion. The focus is that we are talking about a long time with a relatively short record. The thing I find fascinating is that in the record (the Bible) there is not as much detail as you would expect to find but that is by design. History was not recorded for the same reasons we record history. Stories were excluded or included all for a single purpose. That purpose is to reveal God.

The stories of David and Goliath, Abraham and Isaac, Sampson, Haggar, and even Creation are not there to teach you about these people with their strengths/failures or event details although they can. No instead their purpose of being placed in Scripture is to teach us about God. The Bible is the story of God telling us something of Himself. 1 John 4:19 says we love because He first loved us and that is the point. We know something about God because He revealed it to us because if God does not teach us about Himself we get false ideas about who He is and what He wants (see the tower of Babel) and if we have a false view of God we serve a false god. Seeing as God Himself commands us not to serve false gods He has to take the initiative and teach us about Himself.

So we should look at the OT and see what is God trying to teach us about Himself and not what did David do. Yes we can and should learn things from David but David is not the main character. When he dies the story goes on because the main character is God with David playing a supporting role. This applies to everything in the OT including the Law. When God gives the Law He is trying to communicate something of Himself so instead of reading it and saying “I am glad I am under grace and not Law” we should read it and say “God what are you saying about yourself in this?” This does two things that are very important.

First is puts the focus back on God. It says God you are the main character not me. Not my place my position or my desires. What are you saying about you (yes in light of Christ coming)? I am not suggesting we read it in a vacuum but He was saying something about Himself and He says he does not change. So if God was something then He is still that thing remember He exists outside space and time after all the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world. So what was meant for learning is still good for learning. 2+2 = 4 that does not change when you learn that √(4)=2 you just have more information now. We have this idea that we are the center of the universe and I regret to inform you that you are not the center of the universe. You are of great importance to God shown in the fact that Jesus died on a cross for you but the story will continue when you die and there is a good chance that if we are all still here (people that is) no one will remember your name. So lets focus on what will remain and that is God and His Word.

The second thing it does is it starts to teach you. You might just be surprised what you find when you read with the expectation of learning something about God and doing things God’s way. I am constantly amazed what I find when I read with the desire to see Him. I go from one understanding to another one because the veil is removed and I can see things in a whole new light. I start to see certain things that I was sure meant one thing take on a whole new meaning because I understand God is trying to teach me something about Him.

I’ll end with this. God loves you. He loves you so much He gave everything to be with you. He is a caring, devoted, and compassionate Father. That has always been true and I enjoy reading things about my Dad before I knew Him.

Just a thought,

Mike