A Miraculous Catch of Fish (Part Three)

Luke 5:10b-11

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him (NIV).

The miraculous catch of fish greatly affected all who witnessed it. Since Simon was kneeling before Jesus, the Lord directly addressed him with an encouragement not to fear. Observe the reaction of people when they truly encounter the supernatural. They are awestruck; they do not know what else might happen. Here, Simon was afraid. So, Jesus quickly put Simon at ease. We see the compassion and kindness of Jesus. He was aware of how other people experienced the miraculous and calmed them. We also should think about the feelings of others.

But then unexpectedly Jesus said what would change Simon and some of his partners forever. “From now on you will fish for people.” What did this mean? First of all, the Lord Jesus met them where they were at that point in their lives. As you study the Four Gospels you learn that this was not their first meeting. They had heard Jesus speak and seen him act powerfully for several months. They knew he taught about the kingdom of God and how he called people to repent, to change their world and life view. Now this call summoned them to change what they knew about fishing and what kind of catch they ought to seek. The point of contact was fishing, but they would need to learn from him what it meant to fish for people. How do you fish for people? Obviously, you do not cast your nets into the waters of the lake to do that! Even more, why would you fish for people? They had caught fish to sell them to others, but from what they knew of Jesus and his teaching, that was not what the Lord intended. It is easy for us to say that he called them to become disciple makers, but it must have puzzled them. 

So second, this was an invitation for them to become his disciples (students or learners). He would teach; they would learn from him. Clearly, Christ made the point that they would have to consider him their Teacher. This required them to humble themselves before him. Do we grasp this point? Yes, we may ask many questions, but Jesus is not our Teacher if we debate with him the truth he teaches. Every true Christian learns from the Lord Jesus. We do not try to teach him how his world and kingdom must operate. Simon was in the right posture before Jesus, on his knees, and he would have done well to have stayed there at various times in his life, instead of arguing with the Lord.

Third, it was a challenge to live by faith in Christ. They understood this. They immediately left their former occupation. Simon, Andrew, James, and John at that moment quit fishing for fish. They walked off their old job, probably much to the confusion of other fishermen, including their families. This was a bold step of faith, much like Abram had to take when he left Ur (Genesis 12:1). Their prior act of faith, putting out into deep water (5:4-5), was not risky. The greatest cost to them would have been inconvenience and perhaps disappointment if nothing happened. But this was a life-altering demand, and they knew it. Their whole future awaited. Would they choose self-reliance or complete dependence on Jesus. But they considered the cost and the benefits and decided that it was better to fish for people than for fish. So, they left everything and followed him.

What about you? What is the everything that you must leave to follow Christ? Does the life of faith seem too risky for your liking? Jesus calls people out of their comfort zones to surrender their lives and their futures to him. How can you leave everything to follow him? 

You must know who Christ is! Do you?

Grace and peace,
David

A Miraculous Catch of Fish (Part Two)

Luke 5:4-11

When they did this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets began to tear. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them; they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink (5:6-7 CSB).

As already said, in this passage we see a supernatural act of the Lord Jesus. He had taught the people about the kingdom (reign) of God (Jesus constantly taught this truth), and after the teaching he gave a select few a miraculous sign to demonstrate the reality of God’s reign among them. God used signs and wonders to confirm the truth. This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will (Hebrews 2:3b-4 NIV). 

So then, what do we see in this miraculous sign? It was an act outside of normal human experience. Peter and his friends had seen empty nets (the preceding night) and since they were professional fishermen, they had doubtless seen their nets relatively full. But this event was far beyond any other fishing trips they had been on. Their nets became so full of fish that they started to tear. Can you picture the scene? When I was young and used to go fishing with my dad, he would tell me to be quiet so the fish wouldn’t be frightened away. Be that as it may, I know that when fishermen catch fish, they can be a rather noisy lot. Many exclamations would have filled the air as the fish filled their nets. They had to call for another boat to handle the catch.

It was an act that showed Christ’s all-ability. Jesus could have given them a few fish in their nets, and they could easily have dismissed that. He could have given them many, and they could have chalked that up to an unusual but fortunate catch. However, he did something amazing. Their nets were filled with fish, so many that their nets began to break. But even more, because as they brought the fish into their boats and their partners, both boats began to sink. This demonstrated that he had power to do far more than they could imagine, much beyond what any mere human could do. Jesus’ words about the kingdom of God having arrived were matched by this proof of visible kingdom power.

It was an act that produced a humble confession of sinfulness (5:8-10a). Peter became aware of Jesus’ holiness and his own sinful condition. While Peter still had much to learn, he knew that Jesus is Lord. This is an essential part of conversion (cf. Romans 10:9-10). 

Finally, it was an act that produced a call to service (5:10b-11). More on this later.

Grace and peace,
David

False Security

Amos 5:18-6:14

Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord! Why do you long for the day of the Lord? That day will be darkness, not light (5:18 NIV).

This section completes Amos’ third prophetic proclamation. In it, Amos strongly warned them against supposing that they might continue as they were and avoid calamity. He urged them to listen in three ways.

First, religion cannot prevent calamity (5:18-27).

Their religious interest was focused on religious rituals. Four examples:

  • Religious assemblies (5:21)
  • Sacrifices (5:22)
  • Songs of praise (5:23)
  • They even longed for the day of the Lord (5:18-20). They had some wrong ideas about the day of the Lord, so Amos quickly corrected their doctrine.

They thought that they were okay because they were Jews (cf. Matthew 3:7-10; Romans 2:17ff). They forgot what God demanded (Psalm 24:3-4; 1 Samuel 15:20-23). The terms of the old covenant were to obey the Lord first of all in the Ten Words and involvement in religious ritual would follow out of their obedience and love. People love the rituals of religion; obedience to the true God is another matter.

Their problem was their unrighteousness (5:24) and that God wasn’t really important to them (5:25-26). Underneath their outward devotion to the Lord, they were involved in the worship of the stars (cf. Deuteronomy 4:19; 17:2-3). Even now we must reject and avoid the growing practices of paganism that surround us (Ephesians 4:17-24). In this condition, the result would be judgment (5:27)

Second, complacency cannot prevent calamity (6:1-7). In this section their indifference is portrayed. Notice that both Judah and Israel were addressed (6:1).

Amos exposed their indifference:

  • They lived in luxuriant idleness (6:4a). Ever hear of endless binge watching?
  • They delighted in luxuriant feasting (6:4b). Who hasn’t seen this in western nations?
  • They pursued entertainment (6:5). We’re in danger when we have to be continually entertained. This is a trap that is too easy to fall into. We should enjoy the Lord and our walk with the Lord. Joy is very important (Philippians 3:1; 4:4; etc.). But we have to maintain a constant evaluation of activities like our worship services. Is our goal to entertain or to worship and build up one another? 
  • They were overcome with drunkenness (6:6a). This is a serious problem in these Covid-19 days.
  • Overall, they lacked concern (6:3, 6b).

It is at this point that we must ask ourselves a hard question. Are we grieved over the weaknesses and sins of the church? 

Amos responded to their complacency. There was directness in his preaching. Notice the repetition of “you” in 6:1-7! He also continued to warn them of approaching judgment. Some surrounding nations had already fallen, nearby nations that Israel would be aware of (6:2). Their supposed position would not protect them. 6:7

Third, human power cannot prevent calamity (6:8-14). Amos exposed a root sin—pride (6:8, 13b). People are foolish to trust in human might (6:13a). “How easily man takes credit to himself and makes some small achievement the basis of a similar foolish trust!” [Beeley]

Amos then presented the nature of the judgment. God would use another nation to punish them (6:14a). Note that God is plainly in control of the nations: “command” (6:11); “I will stir…” (6:14). The judgment would affect all classes (6:11). The judgment would bring complete destruction (6:8b, 9, 11). It would surely come to pass (6:8a; cf. Hebrews 6:13-17).

All the Scriptures were given for our instruction. Let us listen that we might have hope.

Grace and peace,
David

Seek and Live (Part Two)

Amos 5:1-17

Hear this word, Israel, this lament I take up concerning you (Amos 5:1 NIV).

Second, Amos prophesied by describing God (5:8-9, 14-16). Who is this one who has come to judge? Israel needed to relearn the truth about the true God. The people of God are in a poor spiritual condition when they need to be taught the basics about the Lord.

He described God’s greatness by proclaiming God’s ability (5:8-9). This is a familiar teaching device in the Scriptures. Compare Job 9:9; 38:31. Here Amos reminded the people that God is Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler. The Lord is able to bring human fortifications down (5:9). We should observe how often the Bible emphasizes these truths about God. Yet it is these very teachings that the church today has lost its grip on. Evolution, the belief in the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system, and the deep dislike of God’s sovereignty have consumed the faith of the church.

He described God by his names (5:14-16). God reveals himself by his names. We do not profit from this truth like we should, and we become formal and stale in our worship. What do I mean? Three times God is called “the Lord God Almighty”. Perhaps we need to say more than just “God” to people, because the word “God” has little meaning to them. We worship the living God, the Lord God Almighty.

Third, Amos presented a way to avoid judgment (5:4-7, 10-15). Is there any hope?

Hope could be found if they would seek the Lord.

  • He did not tell them to seek religion (5:5). Israel should place no confidence in religious ritual and experience. We need, somehow, to make this plain to people. God is a husband who wants no rival for his affections.
  • He told them not to presume that God is with them (5:14b). A boast about God’s presence does not mean that God is really with that person. A person may give the appearance of “spirituality” when his or her heart and life are a denial of that pretense. Religion can be an empty substitute for the reality of God’s presence. Human religion cultivates conditions (set readings, recitations, robes, bells, candles, prostrations, recitations, etc.) that strive to create a “feeling” that God is present. True Christianity trusts in God’s ability to reveal himself to the hearts of the worshipers through Christ without such cultivated condition. Approach God by faith in Jesus, and you will be found by him.
  • He instructed them to seek God (seek me) and not merely the benefits that God gives to us (5:4). Are we truly interested in God? Do we have a heart or passion for God? This calls us to a personal relationship with God. Later Habakkuk was to learn this truth (Hab 3:17-18).

Hope could be found if they would seek what is good. They had lost sight of what good was.

  • They did not act according to justice (5:7, 12, 15). So then they needed to repent of that way of life.
  • They despised those who told them the truth (5:10). We must avoid the trap of despising God’s messenger because we prefer another (cf. 1 Cor 1:10-18). Do not despise him because he is not a polished speaker. Do not despise him because you do not personally like him. Do not despise him because he tells you the truth. The most important fact about any ministry is “does it plainly tell us the truth?”
  • They were, generally, overrun with sin (5:12a). They sought the wrong things (compare 5:5 with 5:14) and hated the wrong things (compare 5:10 with 5:15). Yet God still offered mercy (5:15b)! How great God’s grace is—far beyond our comprehension (cf. Is 1:10-18).

Dear friends, there remains hope for our people, if we will truly change our minds, restore God’s truth to rule our thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions, and depend on God rather than ourselves. Pray for a change in the world and life view of people so that God is supreme, honored, and loved.Grace and peace,
David

Seek and Live (Part One)

Amos 5:1-17

Hear this word, Israel, this lament I take up concerning you (Amos 5:1 NIV).

This section is the start of the third proclamation. We need to remember that Israel (the northern kingdom) was at the height of its power when Amos prophesied these words. It would be like proclaiming that the USA was about to be overthrown. Who would listen to that message? “You’re being ridiculous,” or “you’re an alarmist”. But Amos was saying that Israel was already dead. This is a lament. Amos is telling dead Israel to listen to the poem he is reading at her funeral.

A more practical matter for us is this: Do we want to hear the word of the Lord? This should be one reason for attending public worship. We should be listening so that we can live closer to the Lord.

Amos prophesied by weeping over Israel’s destruction (5:1-3, 16-17). It is a lament. What were they to grieve about?

They should weep about the sad condition of Israel. She was a fallen virgin (5:1). Before Amos’ time, the people were unsubdued; they were beautiful and separated to God.  However, all is changed. God had deserted her. Her true and faithful husband had departed from her. God had withdrawn. It may be that the picture is like the one in Jeremiah 9:22. Say, “This is what the Lord declares: ‘Dead bodies will lie like dung on the open field, like cut grain behind the reaper,with no one to gather them’” (NIV). So this is a picture of utter rejection.

They should weep because there was no one to help Israel (5:2b). This is in remarkable contrast to Psalm 18:2-3. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock where I seek refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I was saved from my enemies (CSB). Israel stood deserted.

As Francis Schaeffer used to say, “If you understand, weep.” The great glory of God’s people is the presence of God to bless and sustain them; otherwise, we are nothing, because God’s people are the weak and foolish and despised of the world (1 Corinthians 1:27-28). Without our helper, where are we?

They should weep because of the degree of destruction—ninety percent casualties (5:3). As horrible as Covid-19 has been so far, its ruin doesn’t approach this in any evaluation. Destruction is a recurring theme throughout this passage. On your own, contrast Deuteronomy 28:7; 32:28-30 and the conquest of Canaan, and then compare Deuteronomy 28:25-29. Israel had come under the curses of the law covenant.

They should weep because the Lord had come to judge (5:16-17). Notice that the whole community of Israel is involved: in all the streets… in every public square… in all the vineyards. The language is the same as in Exodus 12:12. God was about to pass through their midst in judgment, but this time it would not be Egypt but Israel under his wrath. Let us listen to what Jesus says to his church. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent (Revelation 2:5 CSB).

Grace and peace,
David