Quickstart: Malachi


As Valentine’s Day approaches, sitcoms are going to get quick laughs with plot lines involving husbands getting non-romantic gifts for their wives; or forgetting to get a gift altogether.

Thoughtfulness is probably more important than the gift itself; certainly more important than the material value of the gift.  Your beloved wants to know you put some real thought into it, rather than stopping by 7-11 on the way home.

The setting in the Book of Malachi is one of God’s people going through the motions without, we would say, any real emotion.  There was nothing in their worship to suggest thoughtfulness and, therefore, real love.

When God confronted them with it, they complained and argued with Him.

A book like this gives us opportunity to be certain we are showing genuine thoughtfulness towards Jesus in our walk with Him.


Many Bible experts suggest Malachi wasn’t a person’s name, but a descriptive title for the prophecy.

Malachi means “my messenger,” which was a common title for a prophet.  The first translation of the Old Testament – into Greek in about 250BC – used the term as part of a title for the book, calling the prophecy that followed “the word of the Lord to Israel by my messenger.”

The book became know as “my messenger” (Malachi) for short.

The writer may have chosen this title to identify himself only as a prophet, without revealing his name.  It’s possible, however, that Malachi was a person’s name.  But nothing else is known about him.

The people of Malachi’s day probably lived about 100 years after the Jews returned from exile in Babylon.

About 50,000 exiles had returned to Judah from Babylon (538-536BC).  The temple had been rebuilt under the leadership of Zerubbabel (516BC) and the sacrificial system renewed.  Ezra had returned in 458BC.

After being back in the land for only a century, the ritual of the Jews’ religious routine led to hard heartedness toward God’s great love for them and to widespread departure from His law by both people and priest.

Instead of offering the best animals for sacrifice, as Jewish law requires, the people offered the worst animals in the herd – the sick and crippled.

They stopped giving the required 10 percent tithe to the temple.

They were ignoring God’s commands to stay faithful in marriage, tell the truth in court, help the poor, and treat everyone fairly.

The prophecy of Malachi is built around seven complaints the people had toward God.  These complaints revealed their doubting, discouraged, sinful heart.

In what way have You loved us? (Malachi 1:2).
In what way have we despised Your name? (Malachi 1:6).
In what way have we defiled You? (Malachi 1:7).
In what way have we wearied Him? (Malachi 2:17).
In what way shall we return? (Malachi 3:7).
In what way have we robbed You? (Malachi 3:8).
In what way have we spoken against You? (Malachi 3:13).

Lets follow the complaints.

Complaint #1:

Mal 1:2    “I have loved you,” says the LORD. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the LORD. “Yet Jacob I have loved;
Mal 1:3    But Esau I have hated, And laid waste his mountains and his heritage For the jackals of the wilderness.”
Mal 1:4    Even though Edom has said, “We have been impoverished, But we will return and build the desolate places,” Thus says the LORD of hosts: “They may build, but I will throw down; They shall be called the Territory of Wickedness, And the people against whom the LORD will have indignation forever.
Mal 1:5    Your eyes shall see, And you shall say, ‘The LORD is magnified beyond the border of Israel.’

Esau and Jacob were brothers, the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekkah.  Esau’s descendants became a nation, the nation of Edom; Jacob’s descendants became a nation, the nation of Israel.

Even though Esau and Jacob were brothers, God’s dealings with Jacob’s descendants compared to Esau’s descendants demonstrated His love.

For one thing, Esau, born first by a few minutes, ought to have had the birthright; but God gave it instead to Jacob.

It meant that Jacob and his descendants would be uniquely blessed in history.  In the Book of Romans, Paul lists those blessings when he says of them,

Rom 9:4    … to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;
Rom 9:5    of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.

Israel wasn’t just blessed more than Edom.  She was blessed more than any nation.

The wording, “Jacob have I love, but Esau I have hated,” is somewhat troublesome.  It’s easy to show, in other Scriptures, that “hated” can mean something more like, loved less or rejected.  I’m not sure that’s helpful.

First of all, realize God is talking about nations, not individuals.  He chose Israel, not Edom, to shower His blessings upon.

Remember, too, that Israel was commanded to show and share those blessings with all the other nations of the world.  Anyone, in any nation, could be saved and share in those blessings.

Deu 7:6    “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.

In Genesis 12:3, God said to Abraham, And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

God’s choosing of Israel did not exclude anyone from salvation.

Edom, as a nation, rejected God, so God rejected them, and it showed in their subsequent history.

There is no basis here for thinking God chooses some people for salvation but chooses others for damnation.  He chose Israel to “bless” all the nations – to bring the knowledge of salvation to the whole world.

Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men – especially those who believe.

The second and third complaints:

Mal 1:6    “A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the LORD of hosts To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’
Mal 1:7    “You offer defiled food on My altar, But say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the LORD is contemptible.’
Mal 1:8    And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” Says the LORD of hosts.

The people were bringing, and the priests were accepting as offerings, things that were contemptible.

Some of the things people donate to God are pathetic.  You would never think of giving them to anyone else.  A few years ago I asked some of the Calvary pastors to tell me the lamest thing ever donated to their ministry.  Here are just a few:

– During a clothing drive for a mission to Mexico, someone donated one shoe.
– “We had someone give us both new and used items from some hotels. Some from 5 star hotels. You know, the little shampoo, conditioner, sanitary napkin kind of stuff. Some of it had been opened.”
– A rusted-out camper shell that later turned-out to be stolen.
– Used toothbrushes.
– “When we were doing Operation: Christmas Child one year, a guy brought his box three days late.  There was nothing for us to do with it, so we opened it to see if there was something that would spoil and thought we’d keep for next year.  But when we opened it, it seriously looked as though he’d dug the stuff out of a dumpster.  We found old, dirty, broken stuff, including a used toothbrush, and a half eaten pack of cheese and crackers.”

Complaint #4:

Mal 2:17    You have wearied the LORD with your words; “Yet you say, “In what way have we wearied Him?” In that you say, “Everyone who does evil Is good in the sight of the LORD, And He delights in them,” Or, “Where is the God of justice?”

The people of God in Malachi’s day were depressed and discouraged because it seemed like the wicked prospered and had it better than the godly.  They grumbled that everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD.

Truth be told, God was being longsuffering with Israel.  He had promised to bless them above all nations – but for their obedience, not just for who they were.

This is a harder issue, I think, for us than it was for Israel, because we have no direct promise that we will be physically and materially blessed for obedience.  We will be spiritually blessed for it – but that is almost impossible to quantify until we stand before The Lord.

His presence, then, in any and every situation must become blessing enough for us.

Complaint #5:

Mal 3:7    Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances And have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” Says the LORD of hosts. “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’

God was calling them to repentance, but they were claiming not to know what to repent of.

This has become common today as folks who are living in obvious sin act as though we are all sinners so what’s there to repent of?

Complaint #6:

Mal 3:8    “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.
Mal 3:9    You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.
Mal 3:10    Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.

The Law of Moses had a detailed system of giving based on the tithe.  Deuteronomy 14:22-29 is one passage describing this system.  If you failed to pay your tithe, you were assessed a 20% penalty (Leviticus 5:14-16; 22:14; 27:31-32).

Since they were withholding their tithes, they were robbing God.

People always ask, Is the tithe for today?  Am I required to give 10% to God?  And is it based on gross or net?

The short answer is that we are not obligated to tithe but are rather to give according to certain principles laid out in the New Testament.

You should give to your church.  For example, in First Timothy 5:17-18 you read, “The elders [pastors] who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, [wage in context] especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

Three of the principles that should govern your giving to your church are that you give regularly, you give sacrificially, and you give hilariously.

Think about the money you give to your church.  Is it regular, sacrificial, and with hilarity?  If not, get with it!

Complaint #7:

Mal 3:13    “Your words have been harsh against Me,” Says the LORD, Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against You?’
Mal 3:14    You have said, ‘It is useless to serve God; What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, And that we have walked as mourners Before the LORD of hosts?

One of the meanings of the word “useless” is desolate.  In other words, serving God leaves you barren, forsaken, ruined.  These are all descriptions of their earthly condition.  It’s true that the Jews were not outwardly prospering.  They were still in subjection to foreign governments; their rebuilt Temple was nothing to be compared to the previous Temple built by Solomon; their economy was struggling.

They thought they should instead be prospering.  They used the word “profit.”  It means plunder, gain.  They had the idea that they should be plundering the earth, gaining in material wealth.

Their argument was based on their having “kept [God’s] ordinance and… walked as mourners.”  That’s not entirely true though, is it?

The simple fact is that they were putting the priority on this earth and the riches it had to offer.  The coming of their Lord, the promise of eternity, were irrelevant to them.

Despite all this complaining, there was a minority who were focusing on eternity.  They are described in precious, tender terms in verses sixteen through eighteen of chapter three.

Malachi 3:16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name.

Those who “fear” the Lord are believers.  In Malachi’s time, they were a small remnant.  They must have felt insignificant.  They had the same struggles as the majority, and they had had an additional struggle with the majority.

Like the majority, they had to struggle with their feelings about the wicked who were prospering.

But they also looked upon the majority who were despising God and had to be troubled that God allowed them to go on in their rebellion.

They must have felt like Habakkuk who pleaded with God to bring revival.

Just when I think I can handle the fact that the wicked are prospering, it’s Christians that make my life miserable.  It is a sore trial.

Still, this remnant met together for fellowship and they exalted the Lord.  The Lord reveals Himself as an eavesdropper!  He listened intently and heard every word they spoke.  He had an angel or angels busy writing down in a Book of Remembrance all of their comments.

Malachi 3:17 “They shall be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.”

God is saying that He will spare believers from eternal punishment, judging them rather according to their faithful service and rewarding them appropriately.

“Then” is obviously a future time.  In Malachi’s time the proud were prospering, while those who feared the Lord were floundering.  But all of that was earthly; there was the eternal to consider.

One day everyone will see the wisdom of a life dedicated to serving God.


Have you ever given or gotten a really lame, thoughtless gift for or from someone you love?

It can be comical, like it is on TV.  But when it involves God, Who has given to you His indescribable gift of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus… It’s not funny to respond out of ritual or habit, or to withhold the best things for yourself.

Each complaint is something we can be guilty of.  Go back over them.

In the end, let’s be in the group God is eavesdropping upon.  Let’s live and give in such a way that there’s something to write about in God’s Book of Remembrance.

Quickstart: Zechariah


To build the first Temple, Solomon needed a work crew of nearly 200,000, working for seven years.  How could a few thousand returned refugees rebuild the Temple, let alone the entire city?

They couldn’t.

But God could.  How?  “You will not succeed by your own strength or by your own power,” God said, “but by my Spirit” (4:6 NCV).

It’s a mystery how God works through human beings to accomplish what seems impossible.  But he does.  He’s been doing it for thousands of years.  And he promises to do it until kingdom come.

He can do it… Through you; through us.


God raised up Haggai the prophet to encourage the Jews who returned from exile in Babylon in rebuilding.  Haggai preached four sermons in four months and then disappeared from the scene.
Two months after Haggai delivered his first sermon, Zechariah began his prophetic ministry, encouraging the people to spiritual renewal and motivating them to rebuild the temple by revealing to them God’s plans for Israel’s future.  With this prophetic encouragement the people completed the temple reconstruction in 515BC.

Like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Zechariah was a priest as well as a prophet.  Zechariah’s grandfather Iddo was a priest who returned with Zerubbabel, making it likely that Zechariah was Haggai’s younger colleague.

Zechariah contains more Messianic prophecies than any other Old Testament book except Isaiah.  It is quoted some 40 times in the New Testament.

Prophecies about Jesus unique to Zechariah are His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey; the betrayal of Jesus for thirty pieces of silver; and the use of that blood money to purchase a potter’s field.

The book is arranged in three sections:

In chapters one through the middle of chapter six, Zechariah shares a series of eight night visions.

In the remainder of chapter six he shares the crowning of Joshua the high priest.

The rest of the book involves two prophecies concerning the future kingdom of Heaven on earth.

The night visions apparently were all received February 15, 519BC, about six months after the construction had resumed.

Zec 1:7    On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet:
Zec 1:8    I saw by night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse, and it stood among the myrtle trees in the hollow; and behind him were horses: red, sorrel, and white.
Zec 1:9    Then I said, “My lord, what are these?” So the angel who talked with me said to me, “I will show you what they are.”
Zec 1:10    And the man who stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, “These are the ones whom the LORD has sent to walk to and fro throughout the earth.”
Zec 1:11    So they answered the Angel of the LORD, who stood among the myrtle trees, and said, “We have walked to and fro throughout the earth, and behold, all the earth is resting quietly.”

In his first vision Zechariah saw several horsemen in a grove of myrtle trees, who reported that “the whole earth is resting quietly” – indicating that there was nothing to hinder the Jews from rebuilding the Temple.

Zec 1:18    Then I raised my eyes and looked, and there were four horns.
Zec 1:19    And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these?” So he answered me, “These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.”
Zec 1:20    Then the LORD showed me four craftsmen.
Zec 1:21    And I said, “What are these coming to do?” So he said, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one could lift up his head; but the craftsmen are coming to terrify them, to cast out the horns of the nations that lifted up their horn against the land of Judah to scatter it.”

Zechariah saw four horns, representing the nations that had helped destroy and disperse Israel, followed by four craftsmen, representing the nations that would punish Israel’s oppressors.

Once again, the implied message was that Israel was now free from oppression and therefore free to rebuild the Temple.

Zec 2:1    Then I raised my eyes and looked, and behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand.
Zec 2:2    So I said, “Where are you going?” And he said to me, “To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length.”
Zec 2:3    And there was the angel who talked with me, going out; and another angel was coming out to meet him,
Zec 2:4    who said to him, “Run, speak to this young man, saying: ‘Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls, because of the multitude of men and livestock in it.
Zec 2:5    For I,’ says the LORD, ‘will be a wall of fire all around her, and I will be the glory in her midst.’ ”

Zephaniah saw a man measuring Jerusalem.  An angel declared that Jerusalem would soon overflow its walls, but that God would be a “wall of fire” protecting all its inhabitants.  The angel of The Lord called on the Israelites still in exile to flee their lands of captivity, for God would judge those nations.

Zec 3:1    Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him.
Zec 3:2    And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”
Zec 3:3    Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel.
Zec 3:4    Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.”
Zec 3:5    And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the LORD stood by.

The fourth vision describes the high priest Joshua’s appearance before the angel of the Lord, who is also the Lord Himself.  Satan appears in his role as “accuser” of God’s people.

Joshua, who represents the remnant is disqualified from worshiping the Lord by his “filthy” (or “excrement-covered”) attire, representing the defilement caused by Israel’s past sins.

The change of attire to “rich garments” and “turban” shows God’s intention not only to cleanse the priesthood and the people but also to bless and honor them by His sovereign grace.

Zec 4:1    Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep.
Zec 4:2    And he said to me, “What do you see?” So I said, “I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps.
Zec 4:3    Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left.”

The fifth vision of the lampstand and olive trees encourages Zerubbabel and Joshua, represented by the two olive trees, to trust not in financial or military resources but in the power of God’s Spirit working through them.

Zec 5:1    Then I turned and raised my eyes, and saw there a flying scroll.
Zec 5:2    And he said to me, “What do you see?” So I answered, “I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits and its width ten cubits.”
Zec 5:3    Then he said to me, “This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole earth: ‘Every thief shall be expelled,’ according to this side of the scroll; and, ‘Every perjurer shall be expelled,’ according to that side of it.”
Zec 5:4    “I will send out the curse,” says the LORD of hosts; “It shall enter the house of the thief And the house of the one who swears falsely by My name. It shall remain in the midst of his house And consume it, with its timber and stones.”

Zechariah saw a giant scroll (the law) flying through the sky, signifying to both present and future Israel that God is quite capable of removing sin from their land in order to fulfill his plans for them.

Zec 5:5    Then the angel who talked with me came out and said to me, “Lift your eyes now, and see what this is that goes forth.”
Zec 5:6    So I asked, “What is it?” And he said, “It is a basket that is going forth.” He also said, “This is their resemblance throughout the earth:
Zec 5:7    Here is a lead disc lifted up, and this is a woman sitting inside the basket”;
Zec 5:8    then he said, “This is Wickedness!” And he thrust her down into the basket, and threw the lead cover over its mouth.

Zechariah then saw a woman whom he was told personified Wickedness.  She was thrust into a basket and carried away to Babylon.

Like the previous vision, this symbolized God’s ability simply and efficiently to remove all sin from Israel – implying once more that there should be nothing to hinder the rebuilding of the Temple.

Zec 6:1    Then I turned and raised my eyes and looked, and behold, four chariots were coming from between two mountains, and the mountains were mountains of bronze.
Zec 6:2    With the first chariot were red horses, with the second chariot black horses,
Zec 6:3    with the third chariot white horses, and with the fourth chariot dappled horses – strong steeds.
Zec 6:4    Then I answered and said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?”
Zec 6:5    And the angel answered and said to me, “These are four spirits of heaven, who go out from their station before the Lord of all the earth.
Zec 6:6    The one with the black horses is going to the north country, the white are going after them, and the dappled are going toward the south country.”
Zec 6:7    Then the strong steeds went out, eager to go, that they might walk to and fro throughout the earth. And He said, “Go, walk to and fro throughout the earth.” So they walked to and fro throughout the earth.
Zec 6:8    And He called to me, and spoke to me, saying, “See, those who go toward the north country have given rest to My Spirit in the north country.”

In his final vision of the night, Zechariah saw four chariots drawn by horses of various colors, coming from Heaven and going “back and forth across the earth,” by which action they “vented the anger of [God’s] Spirit,” especially concerning the “north.”  This suggests that Babylon had been finally and completely judged, and therefore the people should not be deterred from their rebuilding of the Temple.

In the remainder of chapter six Zechariah is told to make royal crowns (in Hebrew the word is plural) and to crown Joshua.  Then the crowns are to be placed in the Temple as a reminder of what God was going to do.

But first Joshua receives a divine message that “the Branch” would build the Temple, be glorified, and rule.  Now the building of the current Temple was already assigned to Zerubbabel.  But the Messiah would build the temple associated with His earthly kingdom of righteousness, a future temple prefigured by Zerubbabel’s.

In chapters seven and eight Zechariah responds to questions about whether or not the returned exiles should continue certain fasts they had established.  He answers with a series of four messages that take us forward to the joy of the future kingdom in which fasting will be unnecessary.

Chapters nine through fourteen are two prophecies:

The first (9-11) predicts the rejection of Jesus in His first coming.

The second (12-14) concerns His Second Coming to establish the kingdom

One commentator called chapter 9:9-10,  “one of the most Messianically significant passages of all the Bible.”

Zec 9:9    “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.
Zec 9:10    I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; The battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.’

Summarizing Zechariah, one commentary reads,

Zechariah has been called “the most Messianic, the most truly apocalyptic and eschatological, of all the writings of the OT.” Messianic prophecies and detailed descriptions of the dawning of the messianic kingdom give the book an exciting quality. Zerubbabel and Joshua represent the Messiah in His royal and priestly roles.  Reflecting on how God’s sovereign program of redemption unfolded in the life and ministry of Jesus should lead to eager anticipation of the completion of His plan, expressed in celebratory worship and zealous obedience.


Zechariah’s vision of the lampstands forever gives you the eternal perspective on the supply of the Spirit within and through individuals and groups to accomplish God’s work on earth.  It does so in a language of simple symbols:

The congregation of Israel is represented by the symbol of the lampstand.

The individual Jews are represented by the symbols of the two olive trees.

The work of God is represented by the light revealed by the lampstand.  The congregation of Israel, under the individual leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua, was to reveal the light of the glory of God to the surrounding nations and to the whole world.

But this was only possible as God supplied His Spirit to them and through them – represented by the symbol of the oil.

Without ignoring the original application of this vision to Israel, we can also apply it to the church.  In the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the church on earth is symbolized by the lampstand.  The congregation of each church, under the individual leadership of its pastor, is to reveal the light of the glory of God to the whole world.  But this is only possible as God supplies His Spirit to us and through us.

Zec 4:6    … “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the LORD of hosts.

“Might” is a word often used to describe strength in numbers; it is our collective strength as a congregation.

“Power” is a word often used to describe strength without numbers; it is your personal strength as an individual.

Neither the strength of our numbers as a group, nor your personal strength as an individual, can accomplish the work of God.  God’s work can only be accomplished by God’s “Spirit.”

But it can be accomplished as we yield ourselves to Him.

Quickstart – Haggai


We had paid off the land we purchased in record time.  We were in meetings with architects and had a great floor plan.  A bank specializing in Christian organizations had agreed to lend us up to $1million.

We were pretty stoked… Until the cost estimates starting coming in.  To build a very basic, no frills, bare bones, metal building within which we’d still have to hold multiple services would be $3.5million.

“No problem,” said the architects.  “Start a capital campaign and get your people to dig deep.”

It was a watershed moment.  I’d seen lots of other churches start asking for money.  Even other Calvary’s.  In fact, the counsel I was receiving from a lot of guys was to put pressure on the congregation.

It was really, really hard to get up on Sunday morning and announce that our building project was on indefinite hold.  It seemed like a failure; and some folks saw it that way.

But once our eyes were off of the problem, so to speak – off of the new construction – we saw that there were facilities available for us to purchase.

This facility, for example, which was more than twice as big as what we were looking at building at less than one-fourth the cost.

The rest is history.

I was reminded of all this because Haggai has a passage that is often used (out of context I think) during a building project.

Hag 1:2    “Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying: ‘This people says, “The time has not come, the time that the LORD’s house should be built.” ‘ ”
Hag 1:3    Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying,
Hag 1:4    “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?”
Hag 1:5    Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: “Consider your ways!

Seems straightforward enough.  God’s house was neglected while the people built their own homes.

True enough; but I think we need to understand that the Temple in Jerusalem was a slightly more significant structure than any church building project.

A better application of Haggai would be to look at our bodies, as temples of the Holy Spirit, and at our church body, as His dwelling place.


Haggai called upon God’s people to review their progress in rebuilding the Temple at Jerusalem.  Let me give you a brief sketch of the events leading up to his exhortation.

The Temple was destroyed by the invading Babylonian armies in 586BC.  As exiles in Babylon for seventy-years, the Jews were without a temple and without their sacrifices.  Babylon was conquered by the Medes and Persians.  Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, gave permission for almost 50,000 Jews to return to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel as their leader and accompanied by Joshua the high priest and the prophets Haggai and Zechariah.

Sacrifices were soon reinstituted on a rebuilt altar for burnt offerings, and in the second year of the return the foundation of the Temple was laid.

However, Samaritan harassment and eventual Persian pressure brought a halt to the rebuilding of the Temple.

Then spiritual indifference set in; and for about sixteen more years – until the rule of the Persian king, Darius Hystaspes (521-486BC) – the construction of the Temple was discontinued.

In the second year of Darius (520BC) God raised up Haggai the prophet to encourage the Jews in the rebuilding of the Temple. His task was to arouse the leaders and the people of Judah from their spiritual apathy and to encourage them to continue working.

Haggai is the first of three post -exile prophets who ministered in Judah to the tiny community established after the Jews were permitted to return to their homeland.

Haggai, whose name means “festal,” or “festival,” appears briefly in Judah to accomplish a specific mission.  His carefully dated sermons focus our attention on a four–month period in 520BC, when Haggai called God’s people to complete rebuilding of God’s

The Jews were dedicated to rebuilding the Temple but had discontinued due to difficulty and then indifference.

I suggest to you that this pattern can and does occur in the lives of believers in the church: Dedication is always confronted with difficulty; difficulty can lead to indifference which causes you to discontinue your spiritual building project.

Haggai 1:2 “Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying: ‘This people says, “The time has not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built.”’”

They had returned with real dedication to rebuild.  Strong opposition had risen up against them.  They interpreted the difficulties as a sign from God they were to quit.  But they were wrong.

Of course there would be opposition.  They ought to have expected it.  They were doing a spiritual work for God and the enemies of God, inspired by supernatural forces, were bound to come against it and them.

If you are in the will of God, you expect difficulties and press forward.  You resolve the problem of interpreting difficulties by knowing that the project you are dedicated to is God’s will.

Sometimes you might press for something that you want that is not really God’s will; that’s another message.

When difficulties are allowed to defeat your dedication, you grow indifferent and become complacent.  Excuses are the evidence of complacency.  You start making excuses for falling-off in your dedication to serve the Lord.

The Jews said it wasn’t the Lord’s time to build.  We sometimes say we don’t have the time.  We have a lot of excuses for accepting the status-quo in our spiritual lives.
Complacency sets you up for conformity:

Haggai 1:3 Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying,
Haggai 1:4 “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?”

Once the building project at the Temple stopped, the Jews turned to their own homes.  Their enemies did not oppose them building their own homes – only God’s Temple.  As long as the Jews were like everyone else, pursuing the things everyone else pursued, they were no threat.

In other words, as long as they conformed to the world they were left alone to pursue the things of the world.  Rather than making an impact on the world around them, the world was making an impact upon the people of God.

Haggai 1:5 Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: “Consider your ways!
Haggai 1:6 “You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.”

The Jews were not able to find satisfaction in the world.  The people of God can never truly be satisfied in or by the world.  We must seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.  Our values must be spiritual and eternal.

Haggai 1:7 Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Consider your ways!
Haggai 1:8 Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,” says the LORD.

“Consider your ways” is the phrase that best summarizes Haggai.  He uses the word “consider” four times in his four messages in these two chapters.  “Consider your ways”; or, as I am suggesting, review your spiritual building project for progress.

Haggai 1:9 “You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” says the LORD of hosts. “Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house.
Haggai 1:10 Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit.
Haggai 1:11 For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”

God has saved you for something greater than the things that this world has to offer.  By His marvelous providence, He will reveal to you the emptiness of living for yourself and the glories of living for Him.

You see their obedience in verse twelve:

Haggai 1:12 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him; and the people feared the presence of the LORD.

The key word in verse twelve is obvious: obeyed.  Rededication is simply submitting to God by obeying His Word.  God’s Word is usually pretty obvious.  When you disobey it’s usually not because you don’t understand God’s Word, but because you won’t submit to God’s Word as your rule of life and conduct.

Christians convince themselves that they are unable to obey God’s Word when, in truth, they are unwilling to obey it.  They convince themselves that God is withholding the power they need to obey.  Just the opposite is true! God’s Word which commands and compels you also empowers and enables you.  One dear saint put it like this: “I know the power obedience has of making things easy which seem impossible.”  That is the attitude you need to adopt.

In the months following the resumption of reconstruction, the Lord gave Haggai messages of encouragement for the builders.

Hag 2:3    ‘Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing?
Hag 2:4    Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ says the LORD; ‘and be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,’ says the LORD, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ says the LORD of hosts.
Hag 2:5    ‘According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’
Hag 2:6    “For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land;
Hag 2:7    and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts.
Hag 2:8    ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the LORD of hosts.
Hag 2:9    ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the LORD of hosts.”

Perhaps recalling the discouragement that had helped end the earlier efforts (see Ezra 3:12), Haggai acknowledged that this second Temple would lack the grandeur of Solomon’s Temple (2:3) but gave assurance that God was with them (2:4–5) and that he had great plans for this new Temple (2:6–9).

The argument Haggai made was profound.  The discouragers were looking back at the grandeur of the former Temple when they should have been looking forward to the glory of the future Temple.

In the mean time, it is glory, not grandeur, that ought to be the focus.  It is the presence of God among His people that is glorious.

The encouragement Haggai gave was to keep looking forward, beyond their present situation, to the ultimate fulfillment of an eternal plan of which they were an integral part.  Though their part might seem small and insignificant, it was no less vital a link in the chain of spiritual history and progress than any other link.

Looking forward to the ultimate fulfillment of which you play a part always hastens the progress of God’s building project.  You see this in the New Testament writing of the apostle Peter.  He mentions the last days of human history, then says, in Second Peter 3:11-14,

2 Peter 3:11 KJV  Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
2 Peter 3:12 KJV  Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
2 Peter 3:13 KJV  Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
2 Peter 3:14 KJV  Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.

Looking forward to the ultimate fulfillment of God’s plans hastens the progress of the spiritual building project.


For the Jews, the building project was the Temple. What exactly is your spiritual building project?

As a Christian, your individual life is a spiritual building project.  Your marriage, your family, your career, your hobbies, your recreations – all of these and everything else in your life are a spiritual building project to be dedicated to God.  You are to build them using the methods and materials revealed to you by God.  You should expect to encounter difficulties; but, when you do, you should remain dedicated rather than allow difficulties to defeat you by halting your progress.

As a Christian, your corporate life with other believers is also a spiritual building project. The church as a group is God’s spiritual building on earth.  You are called to serve others, and gifted in certain ways by God’s Spirit.  We are to work together using the right methods and materials to accomplish the spiritual service God has planned for us.  We should expect to encounter difficulties; but when we do, we should remain dedicated rather than allow difficulties to defeat us by halting our progress.

Submit yourself to a review of your spiritual building project.  You should see that you have remained dedicated to the spiritual projects God has given you.

If you have not remained dedicated, then it’s time to be rededicated.

Quickstart: Zephaniah


As believers, we long for and pray for revival.  By “revival” we can either mean a multitude of persons coming to know The Lord for the first time, or a season of spiritual growth in the life of a church.

Nothing wrong with praying for that kind of revival, and we see throughout history many revivals breaking out in response to (or at least in conjunction with) prayer.

At the same time, it’s possible to experience revival, to even be a part of it, but not really be changed all that much.

We can, and should, pray for revival.  But what we can and should do even more is pursue revival for ourselves.

While we get a quickstart look of this book, we want to keep in mind that prayer for revival should look inward first.  It should cause me to ask, “Am I pursuing the things that speak of revival in my own life, rather than just hoping God will touch others so that I am swept along, too?”


Zephaniah must have seemed out of touch with the times in which he lived.  He announced God’s imminent and catastrophic judgment, but he did so during a time of revival.

The nation had been suffering from the corrupt reigns of kings Manasseh and Amon.  But in the eighth year of Josiah’s reign, the king’s heart was turned to the Lord; and in the twelfth year, he instituted a program of moral and religious reforms.  Later, in the course of repairing the Temple, the high priest found a copy of the book of the law – long neglected under the reigns of Manasseh and Amon.  This led to even greater reform, even revival, in 621BC.

Yet here was Zephaniah declaring the day of the Lord – the impending day of God’s judgment and wrath.  How could he be so out of touch with the times?

He wasn’t.  The revival under King Josiah was impressive; but immediately after his death, Josiah’s own sons plunged the nation back into idolatry.  In just a few short years the Jews would be taken captive by Babylon.

What happened to the revival?  Why did it fail?  The Lord showed Zephaniah two responses among the Jews to King Josiah’s reforms and the ensuing revival:

In chapter one, the majority of Jews were shown to be only outwardly reformed.

In the first three verses of chapter two, only a minority of Jews were shown to be also inwardly transformed.

Revival that leads only to outward reform will fail.  There must be an inward transformation of the heart.

The first nine Minor Prophets, ending with Zephaniah, all precede the Babylonian invasion and captivity.  The final three Minor Prophets – Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi – deal with events after the Jews return from Babylon to Judah.

Zephaniah comes last in biblical order of those who preceded because he summarized all the warnings of the other eight.  It’s as if he was saying, “The revival of King Josiah is the last chance to get right with God before it’s too late!”  Those who wanted to take his warning seriously would have looked for the signs that their inward lives were transformed.

Zephaniah warned of the impending invasion by Babylon and of the “day of the Lord,” the final and universal judgment at the end of human history.  Looking still further into God’s plans for his people, he foretold Judah’s return from Babylon and the final, triumphant page of human history, the glorious millennial kingdom of God.

Zephaniah is the first of the generation of prophets which will include Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Obadiah and Ezekiel.  These are the men who will not only proclaim God’s judgment on Judah and Jerusalem, but also be caught up in it themselves.  Some of them will live right through the disaster as God’s representatives and commentators, announcing and interpreting events.

Zep 1:1    The word of the LORD which came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.
Zep 1:2    “I will utterly consume everything From the face of the land,” Says the LORD;
Zep 1:3    “I will consume man and beast; I will consume the birds of the heavens, The fish of the sea, And the stumbling blocks along with the wicked. I will cut off man from the face of the land,” Says the LORD.
Zep 1:4    “I will stretch out My hand against Judah, And against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. I will cut off every trace of Baal from this place, The names of the idolatrous priests with the pagan priests –
Zep 1:5    Those who worship the host of heaven on the housetops; Those who worship and swear oaths by the LORD, But who also swear by Milcom;
Zep 1:6    Those who have turned back from following the LORD, And have not sought the LORD, nor inquired of Him.”

Zephaniah describes three kinds of people in these verses:

Those who have forsaken Jehovah and who worship only idols.
Those who worship both Jehovah and the idols.
And those who have forsaken the Lord openly and want nothing to do with Him.

Examine yourself; be sure you are not one of them.

It is especially dangerous for us to fall in category two – worshipping both Jesus and idols.

The coming judgment is described in verses seven through eighteen.  Zephaniah calls it “the day of The Lord.”  It has a two-fold meaning:

Locally, God’s judgments on Israel and Judah in the past.
Prophetically, that future time of judgment when God will pour out His wrath on the whole earth.
In this case, “the day of The Lord” would be the Babylonian invasion in 606BC and the destruction of the city and temple in 586BC.

Verses fourteen through sixteen use eleven different words to describe the coming day of the Lord.

Zep 1:14    The great day of the LORD is near; It is near and hastens quickly. The noise of the day of the LORD is bitter; There the mighty men shall cry out.
Zep 1:15    That day is a day of wrath, A day of trouble and distress, A day of devastation and desolation, A day of darkness and gloominess, A day of clouds and thick darkness,
Zep 1:16    A day of trumpet and alarm Against the fortified cities And against the high towers.

There should be no doubt about the extent of the coming destruction.

Why do this to the Jews?  They would not repent and were in danger of destroying themselves on account of their sin.  God, in His providence, could not allow the people from whom the Savior of the whole world was to descend, to cease to exist, or for there to be no believing remnant.  He intervened in the way most likely to cause them to repent and seek Him again.

Your trials and afflictions may have something to do with God disciplining you for your own ultimate good.  Not all suffering, however, is a discipline.  Some is part of the warfare we face in a world hostile to God, in which men by the exercise of their free will do terrible things.

In those cases God uses your suffering to reveal His strength in your weakness; to reveal that His grace is always sufficient.  And He redeems your suffering for His glory.

In chapter two the prophet turns to Jerusalem and Judah and pleads with the people to turn to the Lord and repent of their sins.

Zep 2:1    Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation,
Zep 2:2    Before the decree is issued, Or the day passes like chaff, Before the LORD’s fierce anger comes upon you, Before the day of the LORD’s anger comes upon you!
Zep 2:3    Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, Who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden In the day of the LORD’s anger.

In wrath God remembers mercy.  The burden is on men to repent.  God gives plenty of warning; there is also ample time.

But you must repent; you must turn to, and return to, The Lord.

From verse four into chapter three Zephaniah names the various Gentile nations around Judah and announces that God will judge them for their sins as well.

He begins with Philistia and predicts that their populous coasts will become pastures for the flocks.

Then he names Moab and Ammon. They had mistreated God’s people and proudly “magnified themselves”; therefore God would humble them. Their lands would be ruined. Their idols would prove powerless.

Egypt is next on the list, and he promises them war that will slay their youths.

Assyria and her capital city Nineveh will be so completely destroyed that their land will be a wilderness.

Zephaniah closes out his message with a great farsighted promise.

Zep 3:8    “Therefore wait for Me,” says the LORD, “Until the day I rise up for plunder; My determination is to gather the nations To My assembly of kingdoms, To pour on them My indignation, All My fierce anger; All the earth shall be devoured With the fire of My jealousy.
Zep 3:9    “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, That they all may call on the name of the LORD, To serve Him with one accord.
Zep 3:10    From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My worshipers, The daughter of My dispersed ones, Shall bring My offering.
Zep 3:11    In that day you shall not be shamed for any of your deeds In which you transgress against Me; For then I will take away from your midst Those who rejoice in your pride, And you shall no longer be haughty In My holy mountain.
Zep 3:12    I will leave in your midst A meek and humble people, And they shall trust in the name of the LORD.
Zep 3:13    The remnant of Israel shall do no unrighteousness And speak no lies, Nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth; For they shall feed their flocks and lie down, And no one shall make them afraid.”

God will one day regather His people, punish the Gentile nations, and restore Israel and Judah to their land. Verse eight is certainly a prediction of the Battle of Armageddon, when all nations shall gather against Jerusalem in the last days.

But Jesus Christ will return and judge these nations, and then establish His kingdom. He will regather the scattered Jews, cleanse them of their sins, and establish His righteous kingdom, sitting upon David’s throne in Jerusalem.


What is revival?  As indicated earlier, it is something that can affect both nonbelievers as well as believers.

Revival is making alive those who are dead.  Those who are dead are nonbelievers – described in the Bible as “dead in their trespasses and sins.” They are spiritually dead and need to be made alive by God.  We would call this aspect of revival, evangelism.

Revival is also restoring the life of those who are alive.  These are believers whose walk with the Lord lacks vitality.  They have the Holy Spirit; but the Holy Spirit does not have them!  Leonard Ravenhill is quoted as saying, “Evangelism affects the other fellow; revival affects me.”

Josiah experienced revival, and so did a remnant after him, while most of the Jews did not.  It looked like a national revival; but it was only in the hearts of a very few who were genuinely transformed.

King at eight years old, he came to know The Lord at age sixteen.  He began to wage a war against idolatry in the land.

In the eighteenth year of his reign he proceeded to repair and beautify the temple, which by time and violence had become sorely dilapidated.

While this work was being carried on, Hilkiah, the high priest, discovered a roll, which was probably the original copy of the law, the entire Pentateuch, written by Moses.

When this book was read to him, the king was alarmed by the things it contained, and sent for Huldah, the prophetess, for her counsel.  She spoke to him words of encouragement, telling him that he would be gathered to his fathers in peace before the threatened days of judgment came.

Josiah immediately gathered the people together, and engaged them in a renewal of their ancient national covenant with God. The Passover was then celebrated for the first time in a while.

You and I are believers who are, hopefully, fighting idolatry in our lives.  We, too, can rediscover God’s neglected Word – either by reading it if we haven’t been, or by applying it if we have been reading it too casually.

We, too, can gather together with God’s people to celebrate our salvation.

In other words, we can pursue revival, not just pray for it.

Remember a few years ago the ads for the search engine, yahoo?  The slogan was, “Do you yahoo?”

Perhaps our slogan ought to be, “Do you pursue?”

Quickstart – Habakkuk


If you could be a musical instrument, what would you be?

I took an online quiz and discovered I’d be a trumpet.

I’m sure it was all very scientific.

The reason I’m asking is that by the end of Habakkuk we will be talking about “stringed instruments,” and I think what we see will both surprise and encourage you.


The place to start is chapter two, verse four, where Habakkuk records the words, “The just shall live by his faith.”

I wonder if he knew how deep those words were; how much would be written to explain them.

These seven words are so important that it takes three New Testament books to explain them.  The words are quoted in Romans 1:17, in Galatians 3:11, and in Hebrews 10:38.

Romans describes what it means to be “just.”  You are justified by God when you have faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.  To be justified means that God declares you righteous because of what Jesus has done for you.

Galatians describes how you are to “live.”  Having been justified, you can live by the empowering of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.
In Hebrews you learn about your “faith.”  The word is really “steadfastness,” or “faithfulness.”  A justified person, living by the empowering of the indwelling Spirit of God, is faithful to walk in a manner pleasing to God.  He or she perseveres, looking beyond earthly circumstances to the certainty of eternity.

The context in which Habakkuk received these words is a conversation he was having with God.  As a sensitive and sincere prophet, he was wondering how long God would allow His people to sin, and what He was going to do to discipline them.

The northern kingdom of Israel had fallen prey to the Assyrian Empire.  God had spared the southern kingdom of Judah from Assyria, but the Jews were a sinful, rebellious people.

Hab 1:1    The burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw.
Hab 1:2    O LORD, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, “Violence!” And You will not save.
Hab 1:3    Why do You show me iniquity, And cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; There is strife, and contention arises.
Hab 1:4    Therefore the law is powerless, And justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore perverse judgment proceeds.

Do you ever wonder about our own nation – “how long” we can continue before God acts to discipline us?

God’s discipline of Judah was not at all what Habakkuk was expecting.

Hab 1:5    “Look among the nations and watch – Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days Which you would not believe, though it were told you.
Hab 1:6    For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, A bitter and hasty nation Which marches through the breadth of the earth, To possess dwelling places that are not theirs.

Habakkuk was stunned.  He couldn’t believe it.

Hab 1:12    Are You not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O LORD, You have appointed them for judgment; O Rock, You have marked them for correction.
Hab 1:13    You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, And hold Your tongue when the wicked devours A person more righteous than he?

Habakkuk didn’t understand why God would use a nonbelieving, pagan nation as His instrument of discipline.

It’s not the reason why, but it is interesting to note that by being held captive in idolatrous Babylon, the Jews grew sick of the idolatry that had led to their discipline.  It was a kind of immersion discipline.  They would be neck-deep in idols and see their folly.

Habakkuk retreated to wait for The Lord to answer him.

Hab 2:1    I will stand my watch And set myself on the rampart, And watch to see what He will say to me, And what I will answer when I am corrected.

Ancient cities were walled, with watchmen posted upon the walls in high towers to spot the approach of an enemy.  Once the advancing enemy army was spotted, the watchmen would send information to messengers who would run throughout the city and the surrounding countryside sounding a warning for the citizens.  Warfare consisted of long periods of siege as the enemy army encamped around the city, cutting off all supplies to the inhabitants within.

Jerusalem would be besieged.  Her watchmen would spot the advancing Babylonian army; messengers would run throughout the city and the surrounding countryside sounding a warning for the citizens.

We don’t know whether or not Habakkuk literally went up into a watchtower.  He was talking about a spiritual watch.  He was using the imagery of the watchman in the tower to teach at least two spiritual lessons:

As Israel’s watchmen took their positions and saw the coming of Babylon, Habakkuk took his position as a spiritual watchman and saw the condemnation of Babylon.  He said in verse eight,  “Because you have plundered many nations, All the remnant of the people shall plunder you…”

As Israel’s watchmen took their positions and saw the coming of Babylon, Habakkuk took his position as a spiritual watchman and saw the coming of Jesus.  He said in verse fourteen, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”

Hab 2:2    Then the LORD answered me and said: “Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it.
Hab 2:3    For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry.

The “vision” that Habakkuk was to “make plain” and entrust to messengers to publish throughout the city is what follows – the condemnation of Babylon as a kingdom, and the coming of the Messiah with His kingdom.

Christians commonly use this phrase in other ways, e.g., when giving the mission statement of the church or Christian organization.  It’s an OK application in that we should be plain and simple in our explanations and descriptions.  Just remember the original context is one of impending judgment.

Hab 2:4    “Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.

This verse is, in one sense, the whole message of God’s dealings with mankind.

“Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him.”  Mankind is proud in its rebellion against God.  Men are born with sin imputed to them, and with sin indwelling them.  They commit individual acts of sin.  There is none righteous – no, not even one.  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  This is where the things we listed come from – from the lost, sinful heart of men.

“But the just shall live by his faith.”  You can be justified by faith in Jesus Christ.  You can believe God and trust Christ for your salvation and be declared righteous by God, Who is both just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus.

Then, made alive in Jesus, you can walk by faith in His promises and prophecies.

Habakkuk prayed for revival:

Hab 3:1    A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, on Shigionoth.
Hab 3:2    O LORD, I have heard Your speech and was afraid; O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy.

“O Lord, revive…” The word can mean to make alive or to restore to life.

Revival is making alive those who are dead.  Those who are dead are nonbelievers – described in the Bible as “dead in their trespasses and sins.” They are spiritually dead and need to be made alive by God.  We would call this aspect of revival, evangelism.

Revival is also restoring the life of those who are alive.  These are believers whose walk with the Lord lacks vitality.  They have the Holy Spirit; but the Holy Spirit does not have them!  Leonard Ravenhill is quoted as saying, “Evangelism affects the other fellow; revival affects me.”

If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, you need revival: You need to be made alive by God.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you might need revival: You might need to be restored to a walk that has vitality.

Each of us should make Habakkuk’s prayer our prayer.  When you make Habakkuk’s prayer your prayer, you notice three aspects of revival:

In verses one and two Habakkuk receives God’s Word, saying, “O Lord, I have heard Your speech…”

In verses three through sixteen Habakkuk reviews God’s works on behalf of His people.

In the closing verses Habakkuk rejoices in the ways of God, singing, “I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

Habakkuk had called upon God to discipline Israel.  God ways of doing it were not what Habakkuk had in mind.  But now, as the book closes, on the verge of captivity, Habakkuk rejoices in God’s ways!

Hab 3:17  Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls;

You could not paint a worse word picture than Habakkuk does in this phrase.  Nothing of his normal, daily life would remain.

Hab 3:18  Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

God saves – and that in itself ought to be enough to cause us to rejoice, no matter our outward circumstances.  Regarding the outward circumstances, Habakkuk said,

Hab 3:19  The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills. To the Chief Musician. With my stringed instruments.

The KJV is much more beautiful:

Hab 3:19  “…He will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places…”

You are to have “hind’s feet on your high places.”  The “hind” is a mountain deer.  It’s a picture of the sure-footedness of the deer even when it is forced by enemies to escape to higher, rockier ground.

Danger is turned into devotion as you are forced upward.  As enemies pursue you, you pursue eternity.

The high places that trouble directs you to are yours; they are personalized, they are individualized.  Habakkuk calls them “my high places.”  They are the ways God causes you to walk in and through to conform you more and more into the image of His Son, your Lord, Jesus Christ.


The book ends with one last musical notation:

Hab 3:19  To the Chief Musician. With my stringed instruments.

This third Chapter was meant to be sung.  The worship leader is instructed as to its arrangement, its pauses, and its instrumentation.

Some commentators say Habakkuk was part of the Levitical chorus in the Temple – a worship leader.

What are the “stringed instruments?”  The Hebrew word is neginoth.  According to Strong’s Concordance, one of its meanings is “a poem set to music.”

Hearing the word “poem,” you can’t help but be reminded of the passage in the New Testament book of Ephesians that calls believers God’s “workmanship” – where “workmanship” is the Greek word for poem.

From heaven’s perspective, Habakkuk himself was the Lord’s neginoth – God’s poem set to music.

You are just as much God’s neginoth – His poem set to music!  Jesus is arranging the movements of your life in order to make your life a praise song to your Father in Heaven.

Quickstart – Nahum


About a week ago or so one of the families in our church told me about a questionnaire that their high school student had been given to answer by one of their teachers.  It seemed invasive and, at least in some parts, inappropriate.

I won’t go into the particular questions.  I will say several of them were of a rather intimate sexual nature.

I selected and copied a chunk of it, then searched for that section online.  I found that it is a questionnaire that was developed to allow video gamers to create new fantasy characters for their role playing adventures.

It wasn’t only age inappropriate; it was totally inapplicable to a high school student in that it was never intended as an inventory of adolescent beliefs and behaviors.

It was, in a word, stupid.  Was it also sinister?

Ah, there we go; crazy Christians, seeing the devil in everything.  Trying to shelter our kids.

To which I say: You bet!  At least to the sheltering.

We’re gonna talk a little about kids tonight in the Book of Nahum.  You might even call it a children’s story.

God had sent Jonah to Nineveh to announce its destruction.  As a result of Jonah’s preaching, the population of the entire city turned to the Lord in genuine repentance and faith.  God spared the city.

As Jonah sat, complaining to God about having spared the city, God said to him,

Jonah 4:11   “…should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left…”

The one hundred and twenty thousand persons mentioned were the children in Nineveh.  God had compassion upon the children.

Nahum picks up the story of those children and their descendants.  His book was written about one hundred and fifty years after the great revival.  The parents were saved, but by the third generation after the revival, their descendants were as wicked as ever.  Nahum announced the total and complete destruction of Nineveh.

If you are saved, you want your children and their children after them to be saved.  It’s not automatic; your children are free moral agents who must choose for themselves to receive or reject Jesus Christ.  Still, you can and should exert a powerful influence in their decision to receive or reject Jesus as you rehearse your own relationship with the Lord to them.


In chapter one Nahum suggests an illustration to help parents get a handle on sharing Jesus with their kids.

Nahum 1:7  The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.

God was to be understood as “a stronghold.”  Nahum drew this from a historical incident.

Nahum 1:9  What do you conspire against the LORD? He will make an utter end of it. Affliction will not rise up a second time.
Nahum 1:10  For while tangled like thorns, and while drunken like drunkards, they shall be devoured like stubble fully dried.
Nahum 1:11  From you comes forth one who plots evil against the LORD, a wicked counselor.

The one who “conspire[d] against the Lord” and who “comes forth… plots evil… [the] wicked counselor” was the Assyrian empire, of which Nineveh was the capitol city.  The words used here would remind the Jews of the story of the Assyrian siege against Jerusalem, recorded in Second Kings chapters eighteen and nineteen.  After the Assyrians had destroyed forty-two outlying cities, they encamped against Jerusalem.  King Hezekiah of Judah sought the Lord and the angel of the Lord slew one hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrian soldiers as they slept.  The army withdrew.  They would not “rise up a second time.”

Nahum was a witness to that siege and to the miraculous deliverance God wrought.  He wrote shortly after that event.

The picture I get is the Assyrian army encamped around Jerusalem, about to destroy it.  The Jews were safe inside because Jerusalem was God’s stronghold.

The picture you can draw from history is this: Just as Jerusalem proved to be a stronghold against Assyria, so your salvation is a spiritual stronghold against the world.

Scripture identifies the world around you as “this present evil world” (Galatians 1:4).  You are warned to avoid being corrupted by the world around you (Second Peter 1:4).  The apostle John said,

1 John 2:15  Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
1 John 2:16  For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world.
1 John 2:17  And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

There is a certain warfare mentality you must adopt in your walk with The Lord.  You’re at war with the world whether you want to be or not.

Questionable questionnaires are an example.  It may seem harmless enough; or you may not think too much harm is done in a teacher handing out such a thing.  But as I think back on my own growing-up, I now wish more things I experienced had been filtered for me – so I wouldn’t have them in my mind, as it were.

God’s salvation is your stronghold.  You have His presence and the privileges of a personal relationship with Him.  These turn your enemies away and fill you with joy.  You want your children to understand the safety and satisfaction of the stronghold as opposed to the subtle strategies of a world seeking to corrupt them.

Your kids need to know that the world is their enemy, and that salvation is their stronghold.  And they need to understand that salvation is a stronghold of the protection and peace of a personal relationship with God – not the prison of a rules-and-regulations religion.

Chapter two is a vivid, graphic account of the final days of Nineveh.

Nahum 2:1  He who scatters has come up before your face. Man the fort! Watch the road! Strengthen your flanks! Fortify your power mightily.

Skip verse two for a moment:

Nahum 2:3  The shields of his mighty men are made red, the valiant men are in scarlet. The chariots come with flaming torches in the day of his preparation, and the spears are brandished.
Nahum 2:4  The chariots rage in the streets, they jostle one another in the broad roads; they seem like torches, they run like lightning.

Already their shields were red with blood.  Their chariots looked like flames of fire as they dashed here and there in the streets.  The soldiers found it easy to slaughter the defenseless citizens of Nineveh.

Nahum 2:5  He remembers his nobles; they stumble in their walk; they make haste to her walls, and the defense is prepared.
Nahum 2:6  The gates of the rivers are opened, and the palace is dissolved.
Nahum 2:7  It is decreed: she shall be led away captive, she shall be brought up; and her maidservants shall lead her as with the voice of doves, beating their breasts.
Nahum 2:8  Though Nineveh of old was like a pool of water, now they flee away. “Halt! Halt!” they cry; but no one turns back.
Nahum 2:9  Take spoil of silver! Take spoil of gold! There is no end of treasure, or wealth of every desirable prize.
Nahum 2:10  She is empty, desolate, and waste! The heart melts, and the knees shake; much pain is in every side, and all their faces are drained of color.

History bears out Nahum’s prophecy.  The river was damned, then released, to make a breech in the walls.  Many attempted to flee; most were killed or captured.  The city was looted.

As you read the closing verses of chapter two bear in mind that the symbol of Assyria was the ferocious lion:

Nahum 2:11  Where is the dwelling of the lions, and the feeding place of the young lions, where the lion walked, the lioness and lion’s cub, and no one made them afraid?
Nahum 2:12  The lion tore in pieces enough for his cubs, killed for his lionesses, filled his caves with prey, and his dens with flesh.
Nahum 2:13  “Behold, I am against you,” says the LORD of hosts, “I will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions; I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers shall be heard no more.”

The Medes and the Babylonians were the instrument of Nineveh’s destruction, but God was the author of it.

Now we can look at verse two:

Nahum 2:2  For the LORD will restore the excellence of Jacob like the excellence of Israel, for the emptiers have emptied them out and ruined their vine branches.

The Jews had split into two separate kingdoms: Israel was the Northern kingdom and Judah was the Southern kingdom.  The Assyrians had completely overrun and destroyed the Northern kingdom of Israel.
They had “emptied them out and ruined their vine branches.”  The Southern kingdom was spared.  God had been their stronghold against their enemy.  Nahum uses this to look far beyond to the end of human history and prophesy that in the end times God will restore Israel and Judah as one nation under God.  He looks forward to the future Millennial Kingdom after Jesus Christ has returned to this earth.

Think of it this way: Nahum wrote after the Assyrian army had been turned away from Jerusalem, but before Assyria had been defeated.  The Assyrians were still a significant enemy.  In a sense, even though they had temporarily been checked, the Jews were still surrounded by them.

Nahum tells his people to look beyond the present circumstances and see Nineveh’s fall.  As long as they remained in the Lord’s spiritual stronghold, they had nothing to fear from their enemy.

The world around us, this “present evil world,” is fallen and it is going to fall.  Instead of the Book of Nahum, we have the whole Bible.  We have many passages that describe the world as fallen and going to fall.  As long as we remain in the Lord’s spiritual stronghold, we have nothing to fear from the world.

Your kids must be taught to look beyond what they see in the world.  They must be taught that the world in its splendor is really fallen… And that it is going to fall… And that a glorious future kingdom on earth and in heaven is in store for them.

In chapter three Nahum gives you the reasons Nineveh was fallen.  He lists some of her sins.  Beneath her splendid and powerful and affluent exterior were three things that undermined her: Violence, harlotry, and sorcery.

Nahum 3:1  Woe to the bloody city! It is all full of lies and robbery. Its victim never departs.
There is so much gross stuff I could list regarding the violence of the “bloody” Assyrian empire.  Here is a short description of what they did to their “victims”:

“… [They cut] off hands and feet, ears and noses, gouging out eyes, lopping off heads, and then binding them to vines or heaping them up before city gates… captives could be impaled or flayed alive through a process in which their skin was completely removed” (cited in the Bible Knowledge Commentary, page 1502).

For their violence, they themselves would be violently overrun:

Nahum 3:2  The noise of a whip and the noise of rattling wheels, of galloping horses, of clattering chariots!
Nahum 3:3  Horsemen charge with bright sword and glittering spear. There is a multitude of slain, a great number of bodies, countless corpses – they stumble over the corpses –

Nahum described a culture that commits violent, heinous acts.  Are we a culture that commits violent, heinous acts?

Yes, we are.  The description of Assyria’s violence against her victims would pale in comparison to the violence of abortion against its innocent victims.  I won’t go any further except to point out that God brought violence against those who practiced violence.  The violent became the victims.

Your kids need to be taught the sanctity of human life.  They need to be taught to look beneath a world not only allows but even encourage such abominable horrors.

Nahum 3:4  Because of the multitude of harlotries of the seductive harlot, the mistress of sorceries, who sells nations through her harlotries, and families through her sorceries.

I like the KJV better: “Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the well-favored harlot…”  What used to be pornography is now considered normal.  It is still pornography, still “whoredoms,” but it is “well-favored” because mainline celebrities are involved.  I don’t need to examine the whoredoms of our culture.  I only point out that when they exist in a culture, God must act in judgment against them.  Look at verses five and six:

Nahum 3:5  “Behold, I am against you,” says the LORD of hosts; “I will lift your skirts over your face, I will show the nations your nakedness, and the kingdoms your shame.
Nahum 3:6  “I will cast abominable filth upon you, make you vile, and make you a spectacle.”

Images that are now commonplace in our society are still shameful and filthy.  Your kids need to be taught modesty and they need to be protected as much as possible from filth and vulgarity.

Nahum 3:4  Because of the multitude of harlotries of the seductive harlot, the mistress of sorceries, who sells nations through her harlotries, and families through her sorceries.

“Sorcery” can be translated witchcraft, enchantments, or evil magic. It is from a root word meaning to whisper a spell.

Be very, very careful what you allow to influence your kids.  If there is any question about something involving or promoting sorcery or witchcraft, then don’t let your kids get into it.

Nineveh was in every sense typical of the world in which believers find themselves – wealthy, powerful, splendid… But filled with violence, whoredom, and sorcery.


So: Are we too conspiratorial?  Too weird when it comes to sheltering our kids?

Karl Marx wrote, “The education of all children, from the moment that they can get along without a mother’s care, shall be in state institutions at state expense.”

His student Vladimir Lenin concurred, “Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.”

Josef Stalin understood, too, and said, “Education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.”

Quickstart – Micah


Pastor Chuck Smith often told the story about the Christian farmer whose cow gave birth to twins.  He told his wife they should dedicate one of the cows to the Lord.

Some months later his wife noticed he was looking very sad.  His wife asked why he was so sullen, to which he replied, “I have bad news.  “The Lord’s cow died.”

It’s in our nature to sacrifice that which costs us less or little.  In the key passage of Micah, 6:6-8, God will address the question of what He requires.  It is nothing less than your life as a living sacrifice.


The book opens with some background information:

Micah 1:1  The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.

Micah’s name means, “Who is like the LORD?”  He is said to be from Moresheth, which is a town located twenty miles southwest of Jerusalem.

The time during which Micah ministered is identified with the reigns of three kings of Judah: Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.  This would make Micah a contemporary of Hosea and Isaiah who lived and ministered in the eighth century BC.

The opening chapters of the book pronounce God’s judgement on both Israel and Judah.  He was God’s final prophet to the northern kingdom before it fell, and he was the only prophet sent to the capitals of both kingdoms – Samaria and Jerusalem.

There are three distinct messages in the book, each introduced by the word “Hear.” Chapters one and two are a message; so are chapters three, four and five; so are chapters six and seven.

Micah’s first message is about the subtle power of influence.  In chapter one you see that the people in the rural areas were not as isolated as they thought.  They were doing the same things that the people in the cities were doing.  They were imitating the sins of the cities.

Micah compares Israel to a “harlot” in verse seven because the worship of pagan idols on the high places involved paying to have sex with prostitutes.  God’s people were like an unfaithful wife who had become a prostitute.

Micah 1:8  Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked; I will make a wailing like the jackals and a mourning like the ostriches,
Micah 1:9  For her wounds are incurable. For it has come to Judah; it has come to the gate of My people – to Jerusalem.
God’s judgement on the northern kingdom could no longer be avoided.

I’m sure that the people of Judah would agree Israel deserved judgement.  But then a shocking statement comes at the end of verse nine.  The same judgement was coming against Judah in the south because Judah had succumbed to the influence of Israel and was imitating her sins.

Perhaps the people of Judah in the south might still repent… Apparently Micah went around naked, wailing like a jackal and mourning like an ostrich.  Let’s just say he was serious about repentance!  And let’s be happy we are not Old Testament prophets!!

Chapter two opens with an indictment of some of their sins:

Micah 2:1  Woe to those who devise iniquity, and work out evil on their beds! At morning light they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand.
Micah 2:2  They covet fields and take them by violence, also houses, and seize them. So they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.

The chapter ends with a word of encouragement for the far future of both Israel and Judah:

Micah 2:12  “I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together like sheep of the fold, like a flock in the midst of their pasture; they shall make a loud noise because of so many people.
Micah 2:13  The one who breaks open will come up before them; they will break out, pass through the gate, and go out by it; their king will pass before them, with the LORD at their head.”
Each of Micah’s three messages includes a word of hope for the far future of the Jews in the Millennial Kingdom.

In chapter three, Micah says “Hear now, O heads of Jacob.”  This is message number two, and it includes chapters three, four, and five.

If you read through it, you will see two recurring themes: The course of Israel’s future, and the care of Israel’s King.

Both of these themes are presented in chapter five, verses three and four:

Micah 5:3  Therefore He shall give them up, until the time that she who is in labor has given birth; then the remnant of His brethren shall return to the children of Israel.
Micah 5:4  And He shall stand and feed His flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God; and they shall abide, for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth;

You see the course of Israel’s future in verse three.  Actually, from our vantage point, you see Israel’s past, present, and future:

Israel’s past and present is summarized by the statement, “Therefore He shall give them up.”  This describes the scattering of Israel among the nations of the world from just after the death of Jesus Christ until recently.
Israel’s future is summarized by the remainder of verse three.  There will be a time of “labor” and “giving birth.”  These are images Jesus used to describe the future Great Tribulation period.  “Then the remnant of His brethren shall return to the children of Israel.”  Then God will regather and restore Israel in the Millenial Kingdom.
Israel’s King is depicted as a Shepherd Who cares for His sheep: “And He shall stand and feed His flock in the strength of the Lord.”

In contrast, Israel’s leaders were wicked:

Micah 3:1  And I said: “Hear now, O heads of Jacob, and you rulers of the house of Israel: is it not for you to know justice?
Micah 3:2  You who hate good and love evil; who strip the skin from My people, and the flesh from their bones;
Micah 3:3  Who also eat the flesh of My people, flay their skin from them, break their bones, and chop them in pieces like meat for the pot, like flesh in the caldron.”

Israel’s leaders were corrupt and the nation would be scattered.  But God would not fail in His promises to them.

Micah 4:1  and shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it. Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established on the top of the mountains,

The “latter days” – the future – is in view.  It is the kingdom on earth, the Millennial Kingdom.

The phrase “on the top of the mountains” is a subtle references to the care of the coming Shepherd.  It could be translated “table-land.”  A table-land is what we might call a mesa; it is a superior grazing land in the mountains that shepherds seek out and prepare for their flocks.  The “Lord’s house,” the future Millennial Temple, will be built on a magnificent table-land which will exist in Jerusalem only after Jesus returns and the land has undergone remarkable geographic changes due to His setting foot on the planet and the subsequent earth-quakings.

As the second message closes, the Jews of Micah’s day were brought back to the present and to their immediate future:

Micah 5:10  “And it shall be in that day,” says the LORD, “That I will cut off your horses from your midst and destroy your chariots.
Micah 5:11  I will cut off the cities of your land and throw down all your strongholds.
Micah 5:12  I will cut off sorceries from your hand, and you shall have no soothsayers.
Micah 5:13  Your carved images I will also cut off, and your sacred pillars from your midst; you shall no more worship the work of your hands;
Micah 5:14  I will pluck your wooden images from your midst; thus I will destroy your cities.

These verses describe a time of conquest and judgement by which God would purge them of their pride and idolatry.

He did this in the north when the ten tribes fell to the Assyrian’s.  He did this in the south when Judah was taken captive for seventy years by Babylon.

The third, and final, message is in chapters six and seven.  It’s an appeal from God to His beloved nation:

Micah 6:1  Hear now what the LORD says: “Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice.
Micah 6:2  Hear, O you mountains, the LORD’S complaint, and you strong foundations of the earth; for the LORD has a complaint against His people, and He will [plead] with Israel.
Micah 6:3  “O My people, what have I done to you? And how have I wearied you? Testify against Me.
Micah 6:4  For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, I redeemed you from the house of bondage; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
Micah 6:5  O My people, remember now what Balak king of Moab counseled, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him, from Acacia Grove to Gilgal, that you may know the righteousness of the LORD.”

God’s people were accusing Him of “wearying” them.  The word is sometimes translated burdened or wronged.  One Bible translates the word “wearied” as molested.  They were accusing God of having somehow wronged them, probably by allowing foreigners to molest them rather than protecting them.

God rehearses two incidents from their history which show that His intentions are always to protect them from foreign nations:

He redeemed them from slavery in Egypt.
When Balak hired the prophet Balaam to curse Israel, God prevented him from doing so.  He blessed Israel instead.

As the book closes, on behalf of his people, Micah pleads with God:

Micah 7:14  Shepherd Your people with Your staff, the flock of Your heritage, who dwell solitarily in a woodland, in the midst of Carmel; let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in days of old.
Micah 7:15  “As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt, I will show them wonders.”
Micah 7:16  The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might; they shall put their hand over their mouth; their ears shall be deaf.
Micah 7:17  They shall lick the dust like a serpent; they shall crawl from their holes like snakes of the earth. They shall be afraid of the LORD our God, and shall fear because of You.

These verses are looking forward to the return of the King.  He will establish His chosen nation, Israel.  All the other nations will “lick the dust” and “crawl;” in other words, they will bow down before God – whether they want to bow or not.

Micah breaks forth into praise:

Micah 7:18  Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy.
Micah 7:19  He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
Micah 7:20  You will give truth to Jacob and mercy to Abraham, which You have sworn to our fathers from days of old.
God “pardons” and “subdues” iniquity and “pass[es] over” transgression.  He “casts all our sins into the depths of the sea.”  He does it because “He delights in mercy” and is a God of “compassion.”

Have you experienced this?  Rejoice in it.


Micah 6:8 is easily the most recognizable verse in the entire book.  It is preceded by an important question.

Micah 6:6    With what shall I come before the LORD, And bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, With calves a year old?
Micah 6:7    Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, Ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
Micah 6:8  He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary calls verse eight the greatest statement in the entire Old Testament.

There seem to be two clear parts to this statement – a revelation and a requirement:

The revelation is found in the words “He has shown you, O man…”  There is something God shows you; something God reveals to you.
The requirement is found in the remainder of the verse.  It tells you what you are supposed to do.

God shows you something, then tells you what you are supposed to do.

What does God show you?  He shows you what He is like.

Today we have the clearest picture of what God is like in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

Remember the What Would Jesus Do? campaign?  It only worked because what Jesus did has been revealed to us on the pages of the New Testament.

Jesus shows you what God is like; you are then supposed to show others what God is like by doing justly, loving mercy, and (literally) humbling yourself to walk with God.

I find it hard to expand on those concepts so let me present this quote:

“Do justice” first of all, everywhere, and always; then, yet further, toward your fellow-men, “show mercy;” do acts of kindness and favor where no merit creates a claim of justice; and finally, as toward God, walk with him humbly, in constant communion and fellowship.  Recognize his surrounding, all-pervading presence, and adjust thy spirit and thy life to a due sense of that presence. In the last clause the Hebrew is specially expressive: “Bow low to walk with God,” as if only so could sinning mortals hope to come near to the Holy One.

God wants changed lives.  God doesn’t want ritual, external sacrifices.

He doesn’t want your dead cow; and He doesn’t necessarily want the one who lived.

He wants you to become a living sacrifice.

Quickstart – Amos


Short-term missions are valuable in growing your faith and seeing God’s work in you, then through you.

By “short-term mission” we usually mean a trip to another country for a week or ten days in order to establish an existing church or to offer aid in the name of Jesus Christ.  It offers the average Christian an opportunity to do full-time Christian work for a period of time.

Over the years we’ve gone to the Philippines to do medical missions and support local churches; we’ve gone to Honduras to do medical missions and building projects by which to preach Jesus; we’ve smuggled Bibles into communist China; we’ve taken youth to Mexico; we’ve gone to support churches in Peru and in Chile.  We’ve even stayed stateside – traveling to Bay St. Louis in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to offer Christian aid.

Amos was a short-term missionary.  He did not consider himself to be a prophet by profession.  “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, Go, prophesy to my people Israel’” (Amos 7:14-15 RSV).

For Amos, his call and his ministry rested in God’s initiative and in His sustaining power: “The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken; who can but prophesy?” ( Amos 3:8 RSV).

It’s a point we cannot belabor enough: God uses ordinary folk.  He even says that not many wise and not many noble are called.  That way the glory can rest where it belongs.

God really does want to use you.  Right now; i.e., right where you are at, without any further education or training.

Not to say you won’t get more of both; but it isn’t needed for you to be used.  “The Lion has roared… The Lord God has spoken.”

One thing I’d add, since God wants to use everyday, average believers, is that we start thinking of moments in our day as short-term missions excursions.  It’s those times when we are being sensitive to God the Holy Spirit and He encourages us to go a certain way, or say a certain thing, or strike up a conversation.


We are Quick Starting the Minor Prophets.  Neither they nor their inspired messages were minor, and they are called “minor” only because their books are far shorter than “Major Prophets” such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.  So brief were their writings that all twelve were written on a single scroll.  Hence, those writings were commonly known as the Book of the Twelve or The Twelve.

Although he was from the southern kingdom of Judah, Amos was called primarily to prophesy to the northern kingdom of Israel.
He was not very welcome in Northern Territory but he stood his ground on the Word of God.

His prophecies were not confined to the nations of Judah and Israel; he also spoke out against the surrounding Gentile nations.

God sent Amos to Bethel, the religious center of the kingdom of Israel, to preach a series of prophetic messages.  Each message began with the same words; you see them eight times in chapters one and two.  They are, “For three transgressions… and for four, I will not turn away punishment.”  The expression is a Jewish way of saying “an indefinite number that has finally come to an end.”

Each time you read these words Amos names a nation that God was judging for their sins – eight nations in all.

The first six nations He addressed were the nations that surrounded God’s people – Syria, Philistia, Phonecia, Edom, Ammon, and Moab.  The final two were the nations God’s people were subjects of – Judah and Israel.

The six Gentile nations were disobeying what we call natural law and ignoring their conscience.  The two nations of God’s people were disobeying God’s written law and were indifferent to His commandments.

Syria, represented by Damascus, was to be judged because of its excessive cruelty in conquering Gilead, the area east of the Jordan occupied by the Jewish tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh.

Philistia had invaded Israel and sold some of the Jews as slaves.
Phoenicia – who we know as Tyre – also sold Jews as slaves but her sin was greater in that she had broken a treaty with Israel in so doing.
Edom would be punished for its unrelenting hatred of the Jews.
Ammon had committed terrible atrocities against the Jews, e.g., ripping open pregnant women with their swords.
Moab, too, had committed atrocities, e.g., desecrating the tombs of the kings of Edom.

So far, so good; God would judge Israel’s neighbors for their cruelties.  Keep listening, Israel; God would not overlook your sins.

Turning to his own people in chapter two, God would judge Judah:

Amo 2:4    Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because they have despised the law of the LORD, And have not kept His commandments. Their lies lead them astray, Lies which their fathers followed.
Amo 2:5    But I will send a fire upon Judah, And it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem.”

This judgment was carried out by Nebuchadnezzar in his three invasions of Jerusalem in the sixth century BC.

God would judge Israel:

Amo 2:6    Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because they sell the righteous for silver, And the poor for a pair of sandals.
Amo 2:7    They pant after the dust of the earth which is on the head of the poor, And pervert the way of the humble. A man and his father go in to the same girl, To defile My holy name.
Amo 2:8    They lie down by every altar on clothes taken in pledge, And drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god.
Amo 2:9    “Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them, Whose height was like the height of the cedars, And he was as strong as the oaks; Yet I destroyed his fruit above And his roots beneath.
Amo 2:10    Also it was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt, And led you forty years through the wilderness, To possess the land of the Amorite.
Amo 2:11    I raised up some of your sons as prophets, And some of your young men as Nazirites. Is it not so, O you children of Israel?” Says the LORD.
Amo 2:12    “But you gave the Nazirites wine to drink, And commanded the prophets saying, ‘Do not prophesy!’
Amo 2:13    “Behold, I am weighed down by you, As a cart full of sheaves is weighed down.
Amo 2:14    Therefore flight shall perish from the swift, The strong shall not strengthen his power, Nor shall the mighty deliver himself;
Amo 2:15    He shall not stand who handles the bow, The swift of foot shall not escape, Nor shall he who rides a horse deliver himself.
Amo 2:16    The most courageous men of might Shall flee naked in that day,” Says the LORD.

Israel had perverted justice by accepting bribes.
They had sold the poor into slavery.
Fathers and sons were having sex with the same harlot.
They lounged in stolen clothing from their debtors while attending religious feasts.
They offered sacrifices of wine that had been purchased with stolen money.
They tempted Nazirites to drink wine.

When God says He’s “weighed down… as a cart full of sheaves…” it means that His people have put Him in a tight spot.  If God must judge the Gentile nations who violate natural law, how much more will He have to judge His own nation that has His written law?

This judgment was a mere thirty years away.  The northern kingdom would be overrun by the Assyrian Empire and taken into a captivity from which they would not return.

Chapters three through six are three sermons addressed to Judah and Israel.  God was giving them one final warning.

Amo 3:6    If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?
Amo 3:7    Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.
Amo 3:8    A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy?

They would not repent:

Amo 4:12    “Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; Because I will do this to you, Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”

After His final warning, God issued another final warning:

Amo 5:4    For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: “Seek Me and live;
Amo 5:5    But do not seek Bethel, Nor enter Gilgal, Nor pass over to Beersheba; For Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, And Bethel shall come to nothing.
Amo 5:6    Seek the LORD and live, Lest He break out like fire in the house of Joseph, And devour it, With no one to quench it in Bethel –
Amo 5:7    You who turn justice to wormwood, And lay righteousness to rest in the earth!”
Amo 5:8    He made the Pleiades and Orion; He turns the shadow of death into morning And makes the day dark as night; He calls for the waters of the sea And pours them out on the face of the earth; The LORD is His name.
Amo 5:9    He rains ruin upon the strong, So that fury comes upon the fortress.
Amo 5:10    They hate the one who rebukes in the gate, And they abhor the one who speaks uprightly.
Amo 5:11    Therefore, because you tread down the poor And take grain taxes from him, Though you have built houses of hewn stone, Yet you shall not dwell in them; You have planted pleasant vineyards, But you shall not drink wine from them.
Amo 5:12    For I know your manifold transgressions And your mighty sins: Afflicting the just and taking bribes; Diverting the poor from justice at the gate.
Amo 5:13    Therefore the prudent keep silent at that time, For it is an evil time.
Amo 5:14    Seek good and not evil, That you may live; So the LORD God of hosts will be with you, As you have spoken.
Amo 5:15    Hate evil, love good; Establish justice in the gate. It may be that the LORD God of hosts Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

I like simple illustrations of spiritual truth.  In the last three chapters of Amos, the Jews of the Northern kingdom of Israel are compared to workers on a wall and farmers in a field whose work was being reviewed so that God could reward their faithfulness and their fruitfulness:

In chapter seven the Jews are portrayed as workers on a wall upon God’s foundation.  God reviewed their work by applying a plumb-line to the wall.  It was out of plumb so, instead of a reward for faithfulness, they would suffer loss.
In chapter eight the Jews are portrayed as farmers in God’s field.  They produced a basket of summer fruit.  God reviewed their work by testing the fruit.  It was over-ripe and rotten so, instead of a reward for fruitfulness, they would suffer loss.

It sounds bleak and, for the Jews of the northern kingdom of Israel, it was bleak.  The “loss” they would suffer was the destruction of their nation at the hands of the Assyrian Empire.

But all was not lost.  As Amos closed his book he spoke of a future hope for the Jews when God would establish them on the earth in their land.  In the next to the last verse of the book, God said,

Amos 9:14 I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them.

Though they had failed as workers on God’s foundation and as farmers in God’s field, He would restore them.  In the future they would build and plant with success and enjoy God’s promised reward.


I suggest that you and I find ourselves in similar circumstances even though it is some twenty-seven centuries since Amos preached this series of messages.

You and I, as believers, are surrounded by nations that are ignoring their conscience – including, in some instances, our own nation, the United States.
And you and I, as believers, are the subjects of what the apostle Peter called “a holy nation,  His own special people… who were once not a people but are now the people of God…” (1Peter 2:9-10).

We – the church – are God’s “holy nation,” surrounded by other nations – even our own.

I read something this week about our place within our own nation.  The comment was, “God doesn’t point His finger at the White House; He points it at His house,” meaning the church.

In light of what Amos said, we’d have to say that The Lord points His finger at both the White House and the church.

As the church – Are we “holy?”

We are in the sense that holy means set apart.  By our very membership in the church, by being born again, we have been set apart for The Lord and are, by definition, holy.

We are also expected to pursue holiness in our lives – the practical, daily holiness of saying “Yes” to God and “No” to sin.

We are living through a time when many, if not a majority, of professing believers are choosing to live in sin.  Probably the easiest example, where you see this the most, is with marriage, divorce, remarriage and sexual sin.  There seems to be no fear of God among professed Christians when it comes to divorcing without biblical grounds, and in having sex outside of marriage.

Let’s pursue holiness as defined and described by our loving God and Father.  He knows best.

Quickstart: Joel


On December 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot twenty children and six adult staff members in a mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the village of Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut.

Not too long ago ninety tornadoes in twelve states ripped across rural America killing at least thirty-eight people.

What do these tragedies, and others like them, have in common?

They have in common that Christian leaders announced they were God’s judgment upon America for our sins.

It’s popular, has been for a long time, to give God ‘credit,’ as it were, for tragedies.  I don’t see it.  Here is why.  If it is judgment, shouldn’t it begin with the house of God – with believers?

And didn’t God tell His good friend Abraham that He would spare Sodom if there were even ten believers in it?

Look at it this way.  Saying a certain tragedy is God’s judgment is, to me, tantamount to prophesying for The Lord.  Are these leaders modern day prophets?
I don’t think it’s healthy to play prophet and announce when a disaster or tragedy is God’s direct intervention.  Let us rather show compassion in a suffering world.

There have been disasters attributed by genuine prophets to God’s judgment of nations and of His own people.  The prophet Joel recounts one and then uses it to beg for his people to repent.


A terrible locust plague struck the southern kingdom of Judah.  It was the fiercest anyone could remember.  Every green thing was stripped and destroyed.  Joel made it clear that this was a judgment from God upon a people backsliding in their relationship with Him.

Joel begins by reviewing the plague they had just experienced.

Joel 1:4    What the chewing locust left, the swarming locust has eaten; What the swarming locust left, the crawling locust has eaten; And what the crawling locust left, the consuming locust has eaten.

Joel 1:7 He has laid waste My vine, and ruined My fig tree; he has stripped it bare and thrown it away; its branches are made white.

They were as terrifying as they were destructive.  They destroyed the vineyards and the fig orchards.  They stripped the bark right off the trees.

One group of people is singled out to give an example of the effect the locusts had upon daily life:

Joe 1:5    Awake, you drunkards, and weep; And wail, all you drinkers of wine, Because of the new wine, For it has been cut off from your mouth.

No vineyards, no grapes; no grapes, no wine; no wine, only whining from the winos!

It’s interesting that drunkenness is the first sin Joel mentions in his book, and drunkards are the first group of people you encounter.  Apparently the nation suffered from alcohol abuse.

The prophet calls the nation to action:

Joe 1:13    Gird yourselves and lament, you priests; Wail, you who minister before the altar; Come, lie all night in sackcloth, You who minister to my God; For the grain offering and the drink offering Are withheld from the house of your God.
Joe 1:14    Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly; Gather the elders And all the inhabitants of the land Into the house of the LORD your God, And cry out to the LORD.

It’s a call to spiritual action.  Spiritual action ought to be priority one with us as believers.  I have no problem with other action, e.g., political action.  But it must be secondary to spiritual action, or we are just spinning our wheels.

Joel gives the plague a name.  He calls it the Day of The Lord.

Joe 1:15    Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is at hand; It shall come as destruction from the Almighty.

Joel makes mention of the Day of the Lord five times in his book.  He is the prophet who introduces this theme in the Bible.
The Day of the Lord is a very technical phrase when used by the prophets.  It is the whole period of time beginning with God’s dealing with the nation of Israel after the rapture of the Church at the beginning of the Great Tribulation and extending through the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and His one thousand year reign on the earth unto the creation of the new heavens and new earth.

Joel refers to the locust plague as the Day of The Lord because he will use it as an illustration of that future judgment.

In chapters two and three Joel chronicles the future invasion of the land.  He then indicates that at its darkest moment, when it looks as though not only Israel but the entire human race will be wiped out, The Lord returns.

Joe 3:15    The sun and moon will grow dark, And the stars will diminish their brightness.
Joe 3:16    The LORD also will roar from Zion, And utter His voice from Jerusalem; The heavens and earth will shake; But the LORD will be a shelter for His people, And the strength of the children of Israel.

The Lord will return to save His people.  It’s the Second Coming, ending the Great Tribulation just in time, and ushering in the kingdom of God on the earth for a thousand years.

Afterwards God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh:

Joe 2:28    “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions.
Joe 2:29    And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
Joe 2:30    “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke.
Joe 2:31    The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.
Joe 2:32    And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the LORD has said, Among the remnant whom the LORD calls.

In this Millennial Kingdom all needs will be provided for as The Lord transforms the planet:

Joe 2:21    Fear not, O land; Be glad and rejoice, For the LORD has done marvelous things!
Joe 2:22    Do not be afraid, you beasts of the field; For the open pastures are springing up, And the tree bears its fruit; The fig tree and the vine yield their strength.
Joe 2:23    Be glad then, you children of Zion, And rejoice in the LORD your God; For He has given you the former rain faithfully, And He will cause the rain to come down for you – The former rain, And the latter rain in the first month.
Joe 2:24    The threshing floors shall be full of wheat, And the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.
Joe 2:25    “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you.
Joe 2:26    You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the LORD your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame.
Joe 2:27    Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the LORD your God And there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame.

The book ends on a high note with God promising He will, in the future, establish Israel forever:

Joe 3:18    And it will come to pass in that day That the mountains shall drip with new wine, The hills shall flow with milk, And all the brooks of Judah shall be flooded with water; A fountain shall flow from the house of the LORD And water the Valley of Acacias.
Israel will be established forever and The Lord will reign over them:
Joe 3:20    But Judah shall abide forever, And Jerusalem from generation to generation.
Joe 3:21    For I will acquit them of the guilt of bloodshed, whom I had not acquitted; For the LORD dwells in Zion.

Contemplating what they’d just been through – a locust plague – and anticipating what a future generation would go through – the Great Tribulation – was intended to lead them to repentance at the goodness of God in loving them enough to discipline them for their own good.


You probably recognized at least one passage I read.  In the first sermon ever preached in the Church Age, the first Scripture quoted was our text in Joel – Joel 2:28-32.

According to Hebrew scholar Dr. Charles Feinberg, these five verses are actually a separate chapter in the Hebrew Old Testament.  They are considered chapter three, and what we call chapter three is chapter four.  Chapter and verse distinctions are somewhat arbitrary; they are not inspired, nor are they are part of the original manuscripts.  Nevertheless, you can see the importance even the Jews put upon these verses by designating them a separate chapter.
Almost two thousand years ago, God poured-out His Spirit upon one hundred and twenty followers of Jesus Christ as the Jews were celebrating the Feast of Pentecost.  The account of it is in the second chapter of the Book of Acts, where you read,

Acts 2:1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
Acts 2:2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
Acts 2:3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.
Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The Jews who had gathered to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost rushed over to where this was occurring.  They heard the followers of Jesus speaking in all of their own native languages. Some of the Jews were “amazed,” some were “perplexed,” and some mocked and accused the Christians of being drunk.

Newly baptized with God’s Holy Spirit, the apostle Peter stood up and delivered the first sermon of the Church Age.  Peter quoted Joel as the biblical authority for the pouring-out of the Holy Spirit.

Peter was definitely quoting Joel.  But if you compare his quote with the text in Joel, you will notice two significant differences:

Joel begins by saying, “…it shall come to pass afterward…” Peter changes that to “…it shall come to pass in the Last Days…”  Peter was quoting Joel under the inspiration of the Spirit.  He explains the prophecy in Joel of God pouring out the Spirit also applies to the period of time that precedes the Great Tribulation.  It was happening now.
The other difference that you notice between Joel and Peter’s quote is that Peter stopped quoting in the middle of Joel 2:32.  He stopped right after he said, “and it shall come to pass that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  He stopped because there is now a gap before God establishes Israel again.  That gap is us, the church.

There is a present pouring-out of the Spirit right now upon the church, and there is still a prophesied pouring-out of the Spirit in the future.

Whether today or later, the Spirit is poured-out to empower believers to be witnesses and bring the message of salvation to the world.

In the Old Testament period the empowering of the Spirit was not the common gift of God to all His people.  It was not until Pentecost that this became a promise for every believer.

Do you see now why this is a separate chapter in the Hebrew Old Testament?  It promises something which we tend to almost take for granted.  It promises a constant pouring-out of the Holy Spirit upon all believers, not just a few at certain special times.

Peter was filled with the Spirit.  He was preaching the Gospel.  The listeners interrupted him to ask, “What shall we do?”  He answered, saying,

Acts 2:38 “… Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2:39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

He emphasized that they would “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” and that it was a gift given to all who believed.  God’s promise in Joel was now present – all believers could be filled with God’s Spirit!  Joel’s prophecy will still be fulfilled in the future; but Peter expands upon it to encourage us to receive it.

The promise of the Holy Spirit to empower is now present.  Peter is the first example of what God intends for all believers.  He was an uneducated fisherman.  He had followed Jesus, but then denied Him three times.  After Jesus rose from the dead, Peter went back to being a fisherman for a time – even though Jesus had told him years before that he would be a “fisher of men.”  But now here he was, filled with God’s Spirit, preaching the Gospel and seeing three thousand souls saved!

Pastor Chuck Smith, in his book Living Water, writes,

I am convinced that the greatest need in the church today is a renewal of teaching on the subject of the Holy Spirit.  Only then will you and I be empowered to go into the world as effective witnesses for Jesus Christ.  The only hope for our nation today is a spiritual awakening that begins in the church with a fresh movement of the Holy Spirit upon the lives and hearts of the saints of God.  And that takes…the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is with you before you are a believer, seeking to lead you to Jesus; He comes in you at the moment of salvation, and you are born of the Spirit.  The baptism with the Holy Spirit is His coming upon you.  It is the experience of the Holy Spirit coming upon you to empower you for your witness and service.

How is this baptism with the Holy Spirit received?  It is received by faith as you simply ask for it.

Quickstart: Hosea


“Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry…”

It sounds like the worst premarriage counseling of all time.  And it would be if it wasn’t the command of God to His young prophet, Hosea.

Skip Heitzig calls it, “a heartfelt message from a heartsick prophet about a heartbroken God.”

Hosea was raised up at Israel’s zero-hour.  Divine judgment was coming.  What Jeremiah was to the southern kingdom of Judah, Hosea was to the northern kingdom of Israel.


Hosea is the first of the minor prophets.  At least, his book is first in order if not chronology.  We’re not sure why they are in the order they are.

The term “minor prophets” refers to the length of their books, not their significance.  It would probably be better to not use the term at all since they each have major things to say.  But that’s not gonna happen.
The Jewish people treat them as one book called “the Twelve.”  All of them taken together are about as long as Isaiah.

The minor prophets ministered during the time the nation of Israel was split by civil war into two separate kingdoms – Israel in the north and Judah in the south.

The ten tribes that comprised Israel would eventually be overrun by the Assyrian Empire.  The two tribes that comprised Judah would be taken captive by Babylon, then return to Jerusalem after their seventy years of captivity were ended.

The reign of Jeroboam II in Israel’s northern kingdom (793–753BC) was the “golden age” of the north, with great military successes and a thriving economy.  Spiritually, however, the nation was not doing so well.

Hosea had to tell them that although a loving God had provided their abundance and was prospering them, their sin would force Him to use their enemies against them as His instruments of judgment.

Hosea began his prophetic ministry near the end of Jeroboam’s reign, and during most of his 40 years of ministry things only became worse, climaxing in Israel’s fall in 722 (see 2 Kings 17).

After Jeroboam’s death, four of Israel’s final six kings assassinated their predecessors.  As the last prophet before Israel’s fall, Hosea pleaded with his people to turn to God and be saved.  He warned of Israel’s coming judgment but also of its final restoration.  He has been called “the prophet of immediate doom and eventual hope.”

There are two key words in Hosea.  The first, “stumble” (4:5; 5:5), literally means “to totter,” “to trip and fall,” or “to stumble.”  The prophets frequently used this word to describe the spiritual life of the Hebrews.

For example, Hosea likens both false prophets and their followers to those who stumble in the dark: They are stumbling over the sin of idolatry and falling to their ruin (4:5; 5:5; Isaiah 3:8).  Isaiah warns that those who rely on their own strength will stumble and fall (Isaiah 40:30), but those who are led by the Lord will not stumble (Isaiah 63:13).  In fact, the Lord will provide strength to those who have stumbled in the past and now call upon Him (1Samuel 2:4).

The other word is translated by two English words, “commit harlotry” (2:5; 3:3; 4:15).  It refers to having illicit sexual relations, especially involving prostitution.

Two forms of prostitution were practiced in the ancient world: common prostitution and ritual, or “religious,” prostitution, which involved pagan fertility rites.  Both forms were strictly forbidden in God’s Law (Leviticus 19:29; Deuteronomy 23:17).

The Old Testament frequently uses prostitution as an image of the sin of idolatry.  Israel was pledged to serve one God (Exodus 20:3), so idolatry was like marital unfaithfulness against the Lord.

To emphasize the point, God wanted Hosea to act out this marital drama before the people of Israel.  He cast Hosea as Himself and Gomer as unfaithful Israel.

If you look at Hosea as the drama it was, it can be said to have two acts:

Act One, in chapters one, two and three, depict the adulterous wife and her faithful husband.
Act Two, in chapters four through fourteen, depict adulterous Israel and her faithful God.

In Act One, Hosea marries Gomer.  She bears him three children who are prophetically named:

Jezreel – God scatters.  God was warning Israel they would be cast away if they didn’t turn from their spiritual adultery.
Lo-Ruhama – Not pitied or no mercy.  God’s longsuffering with sin does have boundaries even if His love for sinners does not.
Lo-Ammi – Not My people.  It was a final, desperate warning of how God must treat them, for a time, if they continued backslidden.

Their names warn the audience – the nation of Israel – that God will judge and scatter them if they do not repent and return to Him.

Gomer seeks after other lovers and deserts Hosea.  Despite the depth of her sin, Hosea finds her in the slave market and redeems her.

The remaining chapters establish that Israel is committing spiritual adultery and refuses to repent.  God predicts judgment by dispersion, barrenness, and destruction.

But for all that, God remains faithful and prophesies the restoration of Israel.

Hosea 1:10 “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ there it shall be said to them, ‘You are sons of the living God.’
Hosea 1:11 Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and appoint for themselves one head; and they shall come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel!

Chuck Missler writes,

No other prophet gave as complete an outline in the ways of God with His earthly people as did Hosea.  God suffers when His people are unfaithful to Him.  God cannot condone sin and yet will never cease to love His own.  And consequently, He seeks to win back those who have forsaken Him.

Woodrow Kroll said, “This is the backslider’s book.  If you or friends or family have drifted far from God, be encouraged through the story of Hosea… This is the perfect book for anyone who needs to know that no sin is so great that God’s forgiving love is not greater still.”

Get Spiritual

Hosea 1:1 The word of the LORD that came to Hosea the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.
Hosea 1:2 When the LORD began to speak by Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea: “Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry, for the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the LORD.”

Prophets sometimes do strange things!

For three years, Isaiah embarrassed people by walking the streets dressed like a prisoner of war.
For several months Jeremiah carried a yoke on his shoulders.
Ezekiel was always putting on a show – digging holes through the wall of his house, refusing to speak, playing siege of Jerusalem with a model of the city, etc.

These were illustrated messages.  The people of God were ignoring His Word so God called upon His prophets to illustrate His Word in the hopes His people would heed His message.

No prophet preached a more painful illustrated message than Hosea.  He was called upon to marry a woman who would prove herself unfaithful – an adulterous, a prostitute, a harlot.  She would bear him three children, and he wasn’t even sure if the last two children were fathered by him.  She would leave him for another man, go from man to man until destitute and enslaved, and Hosea would have the humiliating experience of buying back his own wife at half the price of a decent slave.

It was a vivid illustration of what the children of Israel were doing by prostituting themselves to the pagan gods and thereby committing spiritual adultery.

You and I face this same temptation.  James 4:4 is written to Christians and says,

James 4:4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Throughout the Old Testament, it is good to remember that “…all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).

Hosea 1:3 So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim…

Hosea took Gomer to be his wife, fully aware she would later prove not only unfaithful, but become a despicable harlot.

After their third child was born, Gomer left Hosea, presumably for good.  Was it good riddance?

Hosea 3:1 Then the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the LORD for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.”
Hosea 3:2 So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley.

The phrase “loved by a lover” refers to Hosea.  He was the lover of Gomer, just as in the next phrase God is the lover of Israel.  Despite her harlotries, Hosea loved her.

Gomer had left Hosea and passed from man to man.  At last she was to be sold as a slave.  Hosea went to the auction and offered fifteen pieces of silver – half the price of a slave – and some barley.  He purchased his own adulterous wife after her vile life of harlotry.

Hosea 3:3 And I said to her, “You shall stay with me many days; you shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man – so, too, will I be toward you.”

Hosea pledged his love to Gomer – fully and unconditionally.  His love broke her heart!  She became a loving, faithful wife.

The rest of the book goes on to apply this illustrated message to the nation of Israel.

J. Sidlow Baxter wrote, “Sin does not merely break God’s law, it breaks His heart.”

If you’re not careful, your intellect will be over-drawn to analyze your walk with God as a merely legal relationship rather than a love relationship.  You will consider your sin as missing the mark… falling short… failing to measure-up to God’s standards.

Those are accurate statements; but all the while God’s heart is broken as you play the harlot.

It’s a much more passionate appeal to remain faithful.  Or, if and when you are unfaithful, to return and be restored to your heavenly Husband as He beckons to bring you back.

Let’s close by looking at a remarkable prediction in Hosea.

Hosea 3:4 For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim.
Hosea 3:5 Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They shall fear the LORD and His goodness in the latter days.

That prophecy is being fulfilled today.  Ever since the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD the Jews have been without a king and without sacrifice and without a priesthood.

But afterward – and we would say, soon – The Lord is coming to establish His rule over them.