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

Sinning in Any Circumstance (Part Two)

Amos 4:1-13

“I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord (4:6 NIV).

Last time, we saw that the women of Israel had sinned in wayward lust, in oppressing the poor, and in by being enslaved to alcohol. Next, the prophet Amos pointed out other sins of all the people.

They sinned in their acts of worship (4:4-5). Probably there is no wrong indicated by “leaven” (cf. Leviticus 7:13). By the way, beware of simplistic interpretation that assumes that every occurrence of a symbol or figure of speech must mean the same thing in every context, as this example illustrates. The problem of Israel was their religious pride. They were involved in religious rituals and gloried in them. Contrast Galatians 6:14.

Two actions that demonstrated the waywardness of the people. Bethel, which was the place of “Jacob’s ladder”, but which also had become the place of one of Jeroboam’s golden calves, was their favorite place of religious perversity. Gilgal, which was the place of Israel’s first camp in the Promised Land (cf. Ho 9:15), had become another place of rebellion against the Lord. Past experiences in special places cannot provide grace. God deals with us in the present tense. Is he changing you now?

They sinned in spite of corrective judgments (4:6-11). Notice the recurring refrain or chorus: “yet you have not returned to me”. It is used five times. We might expect judgments to change people. We ought to respond positively to correction, but often we do not. Grace changes people, and not harsh experiences.

The judgments recorded here are just what God said he would do if Israel sinned and departed from him. This is in agreement with the principle asserted in 3:7. Let’s look at these judgments in the light of God’s previously announced threat of judgment (Deuteronomy 28:15ff).

  • Empty stomachs – Deuteronomy 28:53; 2 Kings 8:1
  • Withheld rain – Deuteronomy 11:17; 28:23; 2 Chronicles 7:13
  • Blight and mildew – Deuteronomy 28:22
  • Locusts – Deuteronomy 28:38, 42; 2 Chronicles 7:13
  • Plagues – Deuteronomy 28:22,27-28,35,59-61; 2 Chronicles 7:13

Here are important truths to put to our hearts:

  • What God says, God does. Do not put God to the test.
  • We should look for God’s hand in everyday events. In daily events we should seek God and ask, “Is there something I should be learning?”
  • Every believer is a “snatched one” (4:11; cf. Zechariah 3:2). It is important to keep this in mind to prevent spiritual pride. We are not here because we are better than others, but only because of God’s free and sovereign grace (1 Corinthians 4:7; 15:10).

The verdict announced to them because of their sin (4:12-13).

Israel must face God. There would be no escape (4:12). We must listen to God’s warnings while there is hope (Proverbs 29:1; Isaiah 55:6-7). Compare the situation in Exodus 19:15-16, where they were told to prepare to receive God’s law.

Israel must have a proper concept about the God they would face (4:13). They needed to consider God from what he does. The Lord is Creator, Revealer, and Preserver. They must turn immediately to God in repentance and faith. And they must consider God properly from his name. It proclaims his ability to do what he says. He is the Lord God Almighty. We must properly revere God’s name. It reveals all that he is. He is able to speak and to do.

The serious situation of Israel was that they would not return to the Lord, in spite of all that he had done to correct them. They would not stop and think. We should. God gave Israel harsh judgments, but they refused to repent. Has God done anything like that in our days. What about the Covid-19 pandemic? Yet people have refused to repent and to ask the Sovereign God for mercy. This has been a strong warning from God to whom we must give account. Lord God, give us grace to learn from what you are now doing in our world, so that we will turn toward you!

Grace and peace,
David

Sinning in Any Circumstance (Part One)

Amos 4:1-13

“I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord (4:6 NIV).

In the previous section (3:7-15), Amos presented three motives for him to speak boldly for God. We ought to remember 1 Corinthians 10:11: These things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the ages have come (CSB). Although the old covenant laws and rituals in the Old Testament Scriptures have been fulfilled in Christ’s person, word, and work, the Old Testament Scriptures as a whole continue to function as wisdom-instruction for us. So then, we need to listen to what Amos wrote.

We are now in the second section of the book; it is Amos’ second prophetic proclamation. The first has declared the failings of God’s old covenant people. Next, is a long appeal for repentance.

We need to interpret Scripture by Scripture, using one part to understand another. Here we need to know the foundational revelation (the Torah) to understand Amos’ message. 

Amos started his appeal by presenting the varied situations in which Israel continued in sin (4:1-11). In this post we observe that they sinned in a time of prosperity (4:1-3).

Amos pointed out the sin of the women. God does not worry about being politically correct. In a sexist or racist society, like America, people worry about speaking against the sins of any group. But God is not sexist or racist. He does not play favorites (Acts 10:34-35), and he feels free to address all people in their sins (Titus 1:12f), regardless of the possibility of offending cultural sensitivities. Evil people like to hide their corruption and perversities under the cloak of blaming others for “hate speech”. As we shall see later in Amos, God commands us to hate evil. 

The true and living God is not anti-female. The Lord created the man and the woman in his own image (Genesis 1:27). To be a woman is not to be a second class human. Women should be treated with respect and honor, as men also should. God wants women to enjoy their femininity and to maximize its potential. However, he has also made women responsible and accountable to him, just as men are. With that in mind, look at the language Amos used to stir the women of Israel to repentance.

  • Amos compared them to fattened cows. (Bashan was a lush, green area.) We should be careful not to turn God’s gifts into a means to satisfy our sinful lusts. This is too easily done!
  • Amos exposed their oppression of the poor. Contrast 1 Timothy 5:10. God gives us wealth so that we can help others.
  • Amos pointed out the danger of being enslaved by strong drink. The book of Proverbs contains warnings about drunkenness and alcohol abuse (cf. 20:1; 23:20-21; 23:29-35). This is a great danger to women (and men) in our troubled times. You cannot cure isolation, domestic abuse, and economic loss by drinking your way out of it. Alcohol is not a solution, and it can greatly complicate the serious situation that many find themselves in at this hour. I plead with you, knowing the evil it has brought in my own family’s history. If you are getting caught in the trap of “seeking to drown your sorrows”, get help today!

To strengthen his exposure of the spiritual condition of the women of Israel, Amos presented a contrast with the Holy God (4:2). If you want to know what you really are like, compare yourself to God (Isaiah 6:1-7). Exposure to God’s holy character will bring your glaring deficiencies to light.

A concluding thought about possible interpretations of “with hooks… with fishhooks” (4:2a).Perhaps it was an illustration—people being caught like fish. But the Assyrians really used “hooks” in their campaigns of terror. We have examples from archaeology. They were evil people. Israel experienced their wrath, instead of turning back to the living God. May we listen and return to the Lord!

Grace and peace,

David

God’s Purposes at Christmas

Matthew 1:18-25

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (1:21 NIV).

Christmas is a time for wish lists, whether others give you theirs or you ask what they would like, or others request them from you, or you happily volunteer yours lists to them. We all have items on our lists that we would like to have. Yes, that includes you! We all have plans and purposes that we would like to see happen. By the way, how did your plans turn out this year? Truthfully, this year was nothing like I had hoped for last December. I praise the Lord for the many gracious blessings that he poured out through Christ. But there were many items that I never put on my yearly planner—but God did.

God is the Greatest Planner. The Sovereign, Holy, and Wise God always plans what is best for his glory and for the good of his chosen people. But we do not always see life the way that the Lord of all views it. The history of the first Christmas is a clear example of this difference in evaluation. While a long acquaintance with the story of the birth of Jesus Christ might produce a kind of sentimental charm, it is not the way we would have written the story. A quick reading of the first seventeen verses of Matthew one might leave us with the impression that we have been set up for a glitzy, exciting dramatic account. For in these verses we read of great men, like Abraham and David, and of great events like the exile to Babylon and how God stuck with his people in the long years after that event, since there was still a long line of people who were heirs of the promises made to Abraham and David. Now certainly, God will send the Messiah in regal splendor to crush the oppressors of his people, in order that they might live happily ever after. But if we listen to the story written in God’s word, we can learn much about God’s purposes.

God’s purpose was to send a Savior to save his people from sin (1:18-21). At first glance the way to God’s goal seems very strange.

Joseph, who was a descendant of Abraham and David, is overwhelmed by circumstances that seem to be contrary to God’s law. Joseph was pledged to be married to Mary, whom he esteemed as a good and godly woman. But unexpectedly, she tells him that she is with child, by the creative power of the Holy Spirit. Now Joseph, like any man would be, is rather suspicious and incredulous. After all, all humans are born through the union of a man with a woman, aren’t we? Therefore, he decides to break their engagement, which in that culture required him to divorce her, since an engagement to marry was binding. All Joseph’s dreams for a happy life seem to be crushed.

But the Lord gives Joseph a new dream. It is a dream that involves his heartache. That is often the way the Sovereign Lord of all chooses to work in us and through us. He uses our tragedies to mold his triumphs. This displays his glory and honor in a greater way. He takes what is bitter and makes it sweet. The Lord’s angel verifies the story that Mary has told him. She is expecting because of the Holy Spirit’s power working in her. The Lord tells him to replace his fears with confident action.

God’s message about Mary’s child will be the foundation of a better hope for Joseph and for all God’s people. The Lord makes Joseph a participant in the story. In faith, he is to take Mary as his wife. He must rely on the Lord’s word to do this, for he has no other way of knowing if her account of her pregnancy is true. And in faith Joseph is to name her child Jesus, which means “the Lord saves”. Joseph must replace his fears with a faith that works.

The important point lies in the significance of the name “Jesus”. The son born of the Virgin will be the Savior of his people. But this salvation is not a physical deliverance. Instead, Jesus will rescue his people from their sins—from guilt and condemnation and from the power and finally the presence of sin, which is ruinous and damning.

Here is what Jesus does: When he saves people, he meets their true and basic needs. He saves us from our past, in our present, and for a glorious and joyful future with God forever. The question is, “Has Jesus saved you?” Right now, you may have the best Christmas present that you will ever receive—salvation by Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

God’s purpose was also to be with his people (1:22-25). This purpose had been declared seven hundred years earlier through Isaiah the prophet (Isaiah 7:14).

Matthew clearly teaches us that Isaiah’s words were significant far beyond the time and setting to which he originally spoke. The wicked King Ahaz had rejected the sign that the Lord offered through Isaiah. So the Lord gave a sign to all Israel. Now the time had come for its fulfillment. Here is an important idea in Matthew and the New Testament Scriptures: promise and fulfillment

Matthew by the direction of the Holy Spirit applies the words of Isaiah to what happened to Mary. A virgin gave birth to a son. How could this be? It took the power of God. Every hope we have rests on the power of God. Can God do what is otherwise impossible? Yes, God can! 

Through the virgin birth, God the Son came to be with his people. Here we encounter what is beyond human comprehension. We can know the fact that the Messiah or Anointed One is both God and man. But how can this be? The Bible never presents a full explanation, but instead presents many facts of Christ’s true deity and true humanity. The Son of Mary is also God over all. This is a mystery (1 Timothy 3:16), and the best response is to worship.

What we must notice and lay hold of is that God did this to be present with his people. This is a great idea of Christmas: God with us. God has a purpose to be with his people forever (Revelation 21:3). God is not far away; he has come near through Jesus the Messiah. The Lord the Son took the form of a servant to save his people and in the process to have an earned lordship over all humanity, because of his obedience to the Father’s will (Philippians 2:5-11). In doing this he makes us citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, where we will be with him forever (Philippians 3:20-21).

As we look forward to being with the Lord forever, free from sin and rejoicing in the glory of God Almighty, we can know that the Lord is still with us, as Jesus the Messiah promised (Matthew 28:18-20). Here is something for you and me as we journey through this world. Life might not work out according to our plans. But all will work out according to God’s plan, because he has planned to be with you and me forever. Believer in Christ, remember this in the days ahead. Everything is all right when the Lord of Glory is with you!

Grace and peace,
David

A Miraculous Catch of Fish (Part One)

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).

The fishermen had heard Jesus teach (5:1-3). Next, it was time to see him act. As you compare the other Gospels, you see that this was not the first time these men were acquainted with Jesus. Neither was it the first time they had heard him teach and seen him do miraculous signs. They had had personal conversations with Jesus. They knew him, but now they were to know him more. Relationships grow gradually. Jesus knew this was the time to call them to the next level.

The Lord has all things under his control. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will (Ephesians 1:11 NIV). Think for a moment. Why did Peter and his friends have a frustrating night of catching no fish (5:5a)? It was because the Lord kept the fish away from their nets. Jesus set up the events for this revelation of his power to them. In order to follow Jesus as his “Sent Ones” (Apostles), these men needed to learn that they could depend fully on the Lord for all their needs. They also needed to learn that they were not in charge of their lives. They had caught many fish on Lake Galilee previously, but not the night before Jesus taught from Peter’s boat. As we continue to live through the current pandemic, we ought to learn these lessons as well. I am not in charge; I can depend on the Lord. 

Peter, after working all night, had heard Jesus teach the word of God. Next, Jesus gave a direct message to Peter. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch” (5:4 CSB). Jesus ordered Peter to act contrary to his own professional wisdom. The longtime fisherman knew that night was the best time to fish. He also knew that he had just experienced a completely unproductive fishing trip. He was tired and had already put his tools (his nets) away (5:2). It would have been easy to refuse. But Peter did not. We need many with his attitude today. Human “wisdom” has ruined the western church during the last fifty years. Entertainment and “attractional” methods have not produced true conversions or godliness. It is time during this pandemic to abandon what human wisdom has prescribed and to return to what the Lord Jesus Christ commands.

What happened next is a miraculous sign. In other words, Jesus continued to teach them, not by words, but by a supernatural act. Let’s focus there for a moment. The Bible records many supernatural acts by God. Here, the Son of God performs one. You can always know that a person has departed from the faith when they deny the reality of miracles. Notice that Peter and his friends did not ask for a miraculous sign, though it is all right for people to pray for God to act directly in our world. But the point is that they did not look for or expect what the Lord Jesus did. It was a sovereign act by the Lord, stepping into their world, speaking to them through an action that they would understand was an act of God himself.

Are we ready for God to come and show his almighty power among us, to us, and through us? Peter and his friends needed to know what God can do. Beware of falling into the “Can God Syndrome”! They spoke against God; they said, “Can God really spread a table in the wilderness? True, he struck the rock, and water gushed out, streams flowed abundantly, but can he also give us bread? Can he supply meat for his people?” (Psalm 78:19-20 NIV)

In these dark days, we must walk by faith in the true and living God! Abandon your doubts. Renew your confidence in the God who can!

Grace and peace,
David

Messiah, the Lord

Luke 2:11

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord (NIV).

Jesus is the Messiah, or what most Christians are used to saying, the Christ. Both Messiah and Christ mean “the Anointed One”. Jesus is the Chosen One of God (Luke 23:35). He is the One sent to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

He is also the Lord.

Much of Christmas thinking is wrapped around the idea that Jesus was born as a very human baby, wrapped in strips of cloth, and laid in a manger by his virgin mother Mary. All that is correct certainly, but it is insufficient, if that is as far as one’ thoughts go. We read our granddaughter the children’s book The Bible in Picture for Little Eyes (the old edition with realistic pictures), and it talks much about how Jesus came as a baby. It also stresses that Jesus is God’s Son. That is good.

It is also good to know that he is the Savior. God the Father sent his one and only Son to save or rescue us from the guilt, pollution, and penalty that we fully deserve. We lived in rebellion against God and were liable for eternal punishment. But thanks be to God, in his amazing mercy he provided an Almighty Deliverer for us.

All that Jesus is able to do for us is possible because he is the Lord. He is the great I Am, the Creator and Controller of all things, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. This is what we have trouble thinking through with our small brains. The Chosen Savior, God’s Prophet, Priest, and King; yes, we know that. But to comprehend that the little baby in the manger, the firstborn son of a young Jewish woman is also the Firstborn over everything (Colossians 1:15), that makes us pause and wonder.

The Lord blessed my wife and I with three children. How I remember holding each of the three infants on my forearm with their heads safely cradled in the palm of my hand. They were so tiny, yet very real people! Now think of Joseph holding Mary’s newborn son in the same way. Yes, that is easy to imagine. But that newly arrived infant is also the Lord. Listen to what the prophet Isaiah said of the Lord. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? (Isaiah 40:12 ESV) The Lord is so immense that he has measured the universe with the span of his hand! Yet he was at the same time a very small baby! The fragile human frame that Joseph supported with his forearm and hand at the same exact moment was holding the universe together. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word (Hebrews 1:3a CSB; cf. Colossians 1:17).

Jesus, Messiah and Savior, is also the Lord of glory! Meditate on this awe-inspiring reality as you walk through the tattered remnants of the year 2020. Focus on him as you long for hope for your future. Jesus Messiah is the Lord of all!

By the way, he is also the Lord of your life. 

Grace and peace,
David

Israel in the Lion’s Mouth (Part Two)

Amos 3:7-15

The second motive to speak boldly for the Lord is the theme of God’s message.

The Lord pointed out through Amos two ways that his people were engaging in evil. First, the sin of materialism (3:10, 15). It had so captivated them that they did not understand anything else. This is an example of being hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Hebrews 3:13). We must guard our hearts. Since we have a material aspect to our being and live in a culture that is openly and overly materialistic, we can be tempted to seek satisfaction in material things.

Second, the sin of false religion (3:14). Notice the reference to Bethel. We should immediately think of how Jeroboam I led the northern kingdom into deep sin there (cf. 1 Kings 12:25-13:6). God calls his people Israel to account for their religious error. It was their glaring sin because it was against their covenant relationship with God. This was a root sin of many other sins in Israel.

We must find “root sins”; for example, For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Timothy 6:10 CSB) and strike at these root sins. (Another root sin is old unbelief.) This also requires us to make sure that we have correct beliefs from the Scriptures and seek to practice them. Notice God’s complete seriousness at this point. Amos uses the longest form for God’s name (3:13) in any place in the Scriptures!

We must learn from Israel’s errors. Time goes on, but the human heart remains in the same swamp of evil. “Progress” in humanity is merely “further declines” in the way we sin, either in the manner of our sinning or in the objects of our lusts. Hardness of heart is shown in the refusal to hear God’s warning.

The third motive is the judgment in God’s message. 

Other nations are summoned to see Israel’s punishment (3:9). We should learn from the sins of others and not repeat them. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning (1 Timothy 5:20 NIV). Notice how low the people had sunk. Others are called to witness their oppression of their own people. All knowledge of how to please the Lord had left them.

The judgment would come through the agency of a conquering power (3:11). Amos didn’t name this power, but it was Assyria. It was fulfilled within fifty years from the time of Amos’ ministry. God may use one group of godless people to punish another group (Isaiah 10:10-19). We must “get into” the Bible as a life situation. How would you react if God suddenly announced that our country was to be destroyed?

There was mixed news: Only a remnant would escape, but thank God for the remnant, not only for mercy for those people, but for the whole world (3:12; cf. Rm 9:27; 11:1-6). For from that remnant came the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. God works mercifully even in the most difficult times. Put your hope in God today!

Grace and peace,
David